Skip to main content

Full text of "FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO"

See other formats


03 152 



FIFTY YEARS 
BELOW ZEIVO 




"KING OF THE ARCTIC" 

Charles D. Brower has lived at Point Barrow for 57 years and is known 
throughout the Alaskan territory as the "King of the Arctic." 



FIFTY YEARS 
BELOW ZERO 

<A Lifetime of Adventure in the 
Far JVorth 

By CHARLES D. J8ROWER 

IN COLLABORATION WITH 

PHILIP J. FARRELLY 

AND 

LYMAN ANSON 



I L LU S TKA TED 



DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 
NEW YORK 1942 



COPYRIGHT, 1942 

BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC. 



AI/L RIGHTS RESERVED 

NO PART OP THIS BOOK MlAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY 
WTTHOTJT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER 



INTZD IN THE XTKITBD STATES OF AMERICA 
TSE VAIL-BALLOXJ PRESS, INC., B I N G H A M T O V , N. Y. 



To My Devoted Wife, 

!My Fine Sons and Wonderful Daughters, 
ttiis book is affectionately dedicated. 



INTRODUCTION 

ON AND off for the last half century Charlie B rower has been 
Uncle Sam's most northerly citizen. The honor was taken for a 
spell by his partner an old friend Tom Gordon, who had a house 
three miles farther north; at another time Charlie Klengenberg 
camped six miles beyond, towards the Pole. But Klengenberg 
moved to Coronation Gulf and Gordon to Demarcation Point 
both places farther east but also farther south. That left Brower 
what he had been earlier America's most northerly pioneer. 

Brower is what a loyal American likes to think of as a typical 
American. He is what you might expect of Manhattan Island 
born somewhere around Twenty-third Street when that street was 
far uptown: he is the logical development of a boy who was ad- 
mitted to Annapolis but who left that road of gold-braided pro- 
motion for the paths of high and free adventure on unknown seas 
and shores. Meet him at the City Club in New York, and you 
think him what in a sense he was born to be, a typical successful 
and genial New Yorker; meet him at the Explorers Club of New 
York, to which he also belongs, and you will have difficulty in 
localizing him among that far-traveled company. For he talks 
Africa, and Australia of the Ballarat days, till you think him a 
Tropic rather than a Polar-man. 

I write this to introduce a book which I have read in its origi- 
nal and rough draft, but I shall read it again with eagerness when 
it comes from^the press in its finished and, I understand, more 
compact version. For if Charlie finally imparts a third of what 
he knows about whaling, pioneering, and about the Arctic, it will 
be a source-book on f rendering and high adventure; if he writes 
with a third of his conversational zest and charm, it will be lit- 
erature. 



viii INTRODUCTION 

But in any case the tale will be to me the life-story of one of 
my oldest and dearest friends and in subscribing myself a 
friend I speak for most of the explorers, whalers, traders and 
missionaries who have reached or passed the north tip of Alaska 
since 1884. I speak, too, I am sure, for many captains and officers 
of the U.S. Coast Guard, for reconnaissance workers of the U.S. 
Geological Survey, for teachers whom the U.S. Bureau of Educa- 
tion has been pushing up toward Barrow of comparatively recent 
years, and for nearly everyone else who for any reason has come 
within reach of Charlie B rower's help and his cheer at any time 
during his fifty-eight years of keeping open house to all comers 
about three hundred and thirty miles north of the Arctic Circle, 

Vilhjalmur Stefansson. 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

"King of the Arctic/' Charles D. Brower . . . Frontispiece 



FACZNXS PAGE 



Eskimo women carrying their children "piggy-back" . . 38 

Whaling scene 54 

A whaling camp located out on the ice , 54 

Old Eskimo woman enjoying her cigarette in quietude and 
peace 70 

A Point Barrow native, smoking his home-made pipe . . 70 

Eskimo kayak 86 

Walrus hunting on the floating ice 102 

Full-blooded Eskimo woman (at right), married to a white 
man and her family of half-breed children 118 

SL Paul, one of the Seal Islands, halfway between the Aleu- 
tian Islands and Behring Straits 134 

Tessie George, a Barrow Eskimo schoolteacher . . . .150 
Typical Eskimo camp in the summer 182 

Summer at Barrow, showing Mr. Brower's station and ware- 
houses 198 

A permanent Eskimo igloo made of sods, with the ribs of a 
whale at entrance 214 

A permanent Eskimo igloo, with an entrance through the top 214 
Winter at Barrow, showing Mr; Brower's station . . , . 230 
Church at Barrow. Farthest North church in America . .. 230 

ix 



x ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING FAGB 

The "Arctic" tied up to the ice 262 

Natives, in a walrus hide "Oomiak," going out to the ships 
to trade 278 

Memorial erected to the memory of Will Rogers and Wiley 
Post at Wallipi, Alaska 298 

Native who carried sad news . 298 



PROLOG 

"So Charlie Brower is going to retire!" 

This rumor, perennially floated by well-meaning friends in the 
States, is groundless. 

True, I am nearing eighty and for the past fifty-seven years have 
lived north of the Arctic Circle mostly right here at Point Bar- 
row, eleven hundred miles from the Pole. Also, the long winter 
nights seem better suited than formerly to such mild pastimes as 
writing, preparing museum specimens or carving a bit of ivory. 
Finally, I'll have to admit that I don't bounce the way I used to 
after taking a tumble. 

But retire? Why? 

If there were any basis for the rumor, my friends might point, 
perhaps, to the haze of distance it must be that which is begin- 
ning to turn my few pre- Arctic years at sea into a thing apart, the 
misty prolog to a clear-cut play. 

I have no recollection at all of a first brief period in New York 
City. But there, according to family reports, I was born in 1863 
while my father was serving a second enlistment during the Civil 
War. It seems that we moved to for some reason or other Prai- 
rie Du Sac, Wisconsin. Here a baby brother first saw light, my 
older sister having been born in New York after Father, a natural 
wanderer, had come home from Japan at the outbreak of the war. 
How he managed next to lose all he had in a fling at Pennsylvania 
oil is still a blank. 

But sometimes, working over a piece of ivory at night, my mind 
dreams back to flashes of the trip we made by lake and canal to 
rejoin Father in the east. Clearer yet is our settling at Bloomfield, 
New Jersey, followed by school playing swimming fighting 
with other boys learning a dollar's worth via the well-known news- 
paper route. All so many years ago . . . 

i 



2 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

I go at the ivory carving again, but only to picture myself at thir- 
teen dragging my scanty "ship's boy" dunnage aboard the brigan- 
tine "Carrie Winslow," bound for Montevideo. 

Then in no time, it seems, we are sailing back into New York 
harbor under a starry sky, my head crammed with six months of 
unbelievable yarns to spin the home folks. Suddenly there are 
shouts looming lights too big for stars the crashing and ripping 
of timbers as the "Carrie Winslow" is cut squarely in two by the 
"British America." Somehow I find myself floundering around in 
very wet water, grabbing desperately at a piece of wreckage . . . 

Dim recollections follow of a rescue, months of recuperation at 
home; finally the start of another voyage, this time on a full-rigged, 
two-thousand-ton ship. 

I can still feel that breath-taking thrill at my first sight of the 
"C. C. Chapman." Nor have I forgotten my reason for selecting 
her to sign on as ordinary seaman for a trip to Australia. It was the 
naive reason of a boy of fifteen simply that she was the biggest 
boat I could find along the New York waterfront at the moment. 

A beautiful ship, the "C. C. Chapman," despite the mixture of 
bitter and sweet she dealt me. Certainly much too fine a vessel for 
the end she was to meet. 

My memories of her form the highlights of five years spent al- 
most continuously at sea. Melbourne and Callao parade colorfully 
before my eyes. And there is a Peruvian hell-hole called Huanillos 
that stands out as the place where I go swimming off the ship and 
beat a shark back to the gangway by inches. 

Rounding Cape Horn for Liverpool and Calcutta under fair 
winds makes me lose respect for the "hardships" of the Horn. I 
regain my respect with interest, though, on a subsequent voyage 
from Dublin to San Francisco. We are carrying railroad iron and 
iron car-trucks, and this time the Horn is ready for us. 

We never do get around. After bucking a five-weeks' gale, sud- 
denly those iron car-trucks break loose and start batteriug the 
daylights out of our wallowing craft. Then comes a nightmare 
period below decks, dodging wheels and axles as they roll drunkenly 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 3 

around in the shadowy light of swaying lanterns. But we discover a 
trick to this. After skipping aside or jumping over them when they 
lunge towards us, we learn to stand still on the equal chance that 
they'll not come all the way. It seems to work just as well, and 
after two days and nights we manage to secure them, one by one. 

Meanwhile, the "Chapman," listing badly, comes about, turns 
tail on the Horn and scuds eastward for a run that takes us prac- 
tically around the globe. And so, with a crew weak from scurvy 
and a captain gone stark mad, we make port, after all. Two hundred 
ten days, Dublin to San Francisco! A record of some sort, no 
doubt, even for those times. . . . 

I pick up my ivory carving again for another try. The little piece 
is nearly finished. So also, in retrospect, are my sailoring years. 
For it is the "C. C. Chapman's" last cruise, and now at nineteen I 
am third mate of her when we leave Antwerp and stand out to sea, 
bound once more for San Francisco. 

No iron car-trucks in our hold this time to break loose at a criti- 
cal moment; nothing but good safe scrap-iron, blacksmith's coal, 
furniture, sulphur, plate glass, gin things that stay put. It looks 
like an easy trip ahead. 

It is at first. The only shifting of cargo occurs when some of 
the gin shifts from the hold into our new first mate. But in spite of 
a drunken mate things go fine until we run into a sudden blow well 
down the coast of Patagonia. The gale itself is nothing. But just as 
we are letting go the main, a coil of rope, running free, catches the 
captain's leg and throws him to the deck, breaking his hip. 

We patch him up as best we can. Finally the "Chapman" rounds 
the Horn in good shape. We head north with fair winds. A time even 
comes when the Old Man is able to hobble about on deck. Luck, it 
seems, is with us still. 

Then one day, far off Valparaiso, somebody notices a smell of 
gas coming up the fore hatch. Presently smoke issues from a venti- 
lator in the f o'castle. We find the captain. 

"Get the main hatches off and locate the fire! " 

Easier said than done. Only one hatch gives access to the bottom 



4 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

of the hold past that plate glass, and we know by the smell that 
the fire isn't there. Unfortunately, it's in the blacksmith's coal 
where nobody can get to it. 

The captain, hobbling about, barks out orders, one of which is 
to keep pouring water down, just the same tons of it. Too slow in 
passing empty buckets up, the men begin tossing them. Then some- 
one misses, an empty hits the captain, knocks him down and breaks 
his hip again in the same place. We carry him below in agony. And 
the best we've done to the fire is fan it into a fresh start by opening 
those hatches. 

Hurriedly they are slammed on tight again. For the next few 
days all hands are busy stuffing putty and oakum into every crack 
that smells of smoke. Although this seems to hold the fire under 
control, San Francisco is still six thousand miles away. Shall we 
head for some South American port while there's time? It's up to 
the Old Man to decide. With all his money invested in the ship, he 
takes a gambler's chance. The word comes up from below: 

"Keep on to 'Frisco!" 

We hold our course. When nothing happens, day after day, the 
men breathe easier. Twelve days now since discovering the fire. 
Maybe we've got it licked, after all. 

Early next morning the main hatches blow off with a bang and 
some of us are overcome by the rush of gas. Others heave the 
hatches back into place and batten them down. Too far off South 
America to turn back now, there's nothing to do but set every foot 
of canvas that she'll carry and drive on. 

We cross the line. A few days later the deck grows too hot to 
walk on barefoot. Pitch melts in the seams and oozes out. Our 
shoes track it over the ship as we work. Next, the main fresh-water 
tank heats up until the water boils. Every day or so the hatches 
blow off without warning. We expect the whple ship to go sky- 
high any minute. 

There come times when it seems we can't stand the strain another 
hour. All the boats long since have been made ready, but some- 
how nobody mentions launching them. To abandon ship would 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 5 

mean almost certain death for the Old Man in his condition. So 
we sail the ship, sit tight and hope the fair wind holds. 

It does better, finally whipping up to a gale that tears our light 
sails to shreds. The end, we feel, is near. It isn't a matter of days 
now, but of hours of minutes. Yet seamen scramble recklessly 
aloft to bend on spare canvas. For the next three days and nights 
the old "Chapman" travels as she hasn't traveled in years. 

As we near the California coast at last, still outwardly intact 
except when a hatch blows off, the wind lets down some. We sight 
the Farallones one afternoon, pass them a little after five. We 
cross the bar. We sail up the bay into San Francisco, rounding to 
smartly, as though nothing were wrong. At ten that night we anchor 
off Long Wharf, our destination. 

It seems like a miracle. The men, too exhausted to dwell on 
miracles or anything else, stagger below. What do they care? Fifty- 
two days and nights they've been sitting on a volcano. Now, come 
what may, they'll risk a few hours' sleep. 

Luckily, we rout them out at four next morning. About five the 
fore and main hatches blow off again, and for the first time flames 
roar up through the main, with more fire licking through our port 
side just abaft the fore rigging. 

Two fireboats lying at Vallejo Wharf spot that flare and hur- 
riedly steam alongside. Still playing their streams on the doomed 
old "Chapman," they tow us down the bay behind Mission Rock 
and there pump water into us until we settle ignominiously into the 
mud, our deck barely awash. So the voyage ends. . . . 

So, too, the curtain drops on this brief but necessary prolog. 
What follows is the main Arctic performance that has been un- 
folding ever since. It will keep right on, I feel, for some time yet. 

That is, if I don't retire. 



CHAPTER I 

To A boy not yet twenty-one but already fed up with the solitude 
of seven years at sea, the bustling San Francisco of 1883 looked 
like the Promised Land. 

"No more lonesome places for me!" 

That was my one thought while elbowing through the crowds in 
search of a job. I turned down the first one offered because it 
came, ironically enough, from the City Fire Department and I'd 
had enough fire for a lifetime. 

It was some months later while working for a newspaper that 
the old lure of wide horizons and far places began to stir. Africa, 
for example. I'd always wanted to see what Africa was like in- 
side. 

Gradually the conviction took hold that somehow Fate would 
set me in Africa yet little dreaming that ladies' corsets even 
then were shaping my course in exactly the opposite direction. 

Ladies' corsets! For without them there would have been no 
demand for whalebone, hence no great whaling fleets of sturdy 
wooden vessels, sail and steam, manned by men the like of whom 
the world had never known. 

The importance of whaling in those days can be understood 
when you remember that whalebone was worth around five dol- 
lars a pound and that a self-respecting whale was likely to be 
carrying anywhere from five to ten thousand dollars' worth of 
corset stays "in the rough." Result: A far-flung Arctic industry 
with hardship, disaster and violent death on one side of the ledger, 
balanced by fabulous profits on the other. 

Profits were never so large, however, that an alert outfit like 
the Pacific Steam Whaling Company didn't try to cut operating 
costs, in every way. And since one aggravating source of expense 
was the high cost of shipping coal to the far north for use of its 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 7 

fleet, reports of certain coal veins near Cape Lisburne, Alaska, on 
the Arctic Ocean, called for immediate investigation. 

Which was Fate's way of turning me into what some of my 
more romantic friends call "the most northernly citizen of the 
Western Hemisphere." 

Quite unexpectedly, the Pacific Steam Whaling Company had 
offered me a chance to accompany a small party to Arctic Alaska 
on this coal mining proposition. They were also to trade with 
the Eskimos for furs, whalebone and ivory. I was mulling it 
over, my thoughts still leaning towards Africa, when my old ship- 
mate, George Leavitt, hove into view. I blurted everything out. 

"Going to take it, Charlie?" he asked. 

"Would you?" I countered. 

Somewhat to my amazement, George not only would but did. 

And so did L 

In the Company's office shortly afterwards we were introduced 
to a Captain Ned Herendeen who was getting ready to leave for 
Point Barrow to start a new whaling station for the same outfit. 
It seemed he had just spent two years up there with Lieutenant 
Ray of the United States Army Survey, and had convinced the 
Company that Point Barrow would be a fine place to whale when 
the ice broke up in spring. 

Our little coal prospecting party consisted of four in all. 
J. J. Haverside was in charge. The others were George Leavitt, a 
man named Henry Woolfe and myself. Knowing nothing of the 
Arctic, George and I were busy boys those last days befoje sail- 
ing, trying to round up what we considered essenti^jto such a 
venture. We made plenty of silly mistakes. But amongrmy^few 
sound hunches was a trip ter San Leandro for an Eskinfio dog 
that somebody wanted to give away. Mark proved a fi^e, big 
fellow and I kept him in the north as long as he livfedl 

Weput out of San Francisco early in June on a little schooner, the 
"Beda," under command of Captain Gage who had never sailed the 
Arctic before; our main cargo, coal and other supplies for the fleet. 

Heading across the North Pacific, we made Atka, one of the 



8 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Aleutian Islands, two weeks later. Then, after landing four cop-, 
per prospectors on Solonois Island, a pin-point of land so tiny 
that I've never found it on any map, the "Beda" turned north- 
ward up Bering Sea for the Pribilof Islands. This was the run 
that gave me my first taste of Arctic fog and storm. 

In those days mail went to Alaska by any craft headed in that 
general direction, and since we had a load of it for precipitous, 
wind-swept St. Paul, one of the Pribilofs, we tried hard to land 
it somewhere near the settlement. With the wind wrong, there 
wasn't a chance. The lee of the island was bad enough because of 
high surf. 

I was used to surf landing, however, and promptly volunteered 
to try it with the small boat and one other man. 

As we neared the beach, we regretted our rashness. Only the 
eager looks of the waiting populace kept us on until it was too 
late to quit, anyhow. There was nothing to do but wait for an 
enormous roller, then start in, rowing desperately. 

As soon as we hurtled, ker-blam, on to the beach, men rushed 
shoulder-high into the water, grabbed the boat on both sides and 
landed us in the midst of as extraordinary a setting as I ever saw 
before or since. 

It wasn't the Aleuts themselves that astonished me, deliriously 
happy though they were to get long-delayed mail from "outside." 
What made my eyes pop was the sight of seals- seals seals, 
Millions of them, it seemed, in every direction 1 

We had been too busy trying to keep right-side-up to realize 
that we were heading straight into the center of where these 
numberless females had their pups, one to a mother. Only here 
and there was an old bull who had hauled out early in the season, 
gradually gathering his harem around him as they arrived later. 

No matter where we went, there was nothing either way but 
these breeding rookeries. I never could have imagined such a sight. 

It was curious to see how the young males kept together in a 
section they had set apart for themselves. I noticed, too, that a 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 9 

good many of the pups seemed alone, and asked if they were 
orphans. 

The man laughed. "Their mothers are off fishing, that's all. 
Sometimes leaves 'em alone for two days at a time. But you take 
the old bulls, now, they're different. No, sir, you don't catch an 
old bull quitting the island till the breeding season is over." 

Pondering over the private life of the seal, we finally remem- 
bered the "Beda" lying offshore and came to with guilty consciences* 
Friendly hands helped launch the little boat through the breakers 
and presently we climbed aboard our schooner thoroughly soaked, 
to be welcomed by Captain Gage with choice remarks about 
"three hours to put a mail sack ashore." But it was worth it. 

After breaking anchor, we headed north again, our destination 
distant Point Hope where we were to meet the whaling fleet and 
give them their coal. 

Raising St. Lawrence Island days later, we finally entered shal- 
low Bering Strait and, leaving the Diomede Islands to port, skirted 
Cape Prince of Wales where Cape Mountain marks the western- 
most tip of the continent. At this point the Strait is only fifty-six 
miles wide, and it gave me a strange, exhilarated feeling to see 
North America on one side of me and the dim outlines of Siberian 
hills on the other. 

Creeping northward into the Arctic Ocean, we encountered our 
first scattered ice, a new and disconcerting discovery for good Cap- 
tain Gage. So disconcerting that, instead of heading direct for 
Point Hope, he went over to the east along the edge of the ice. The 
result of his unnecessary caution was that on July 1, 1884 we an- 
chored under the lee, not of Point Hope but of Cape Krusenstern, 
miles south. It took another two days to work our way north to 
the fifteen-mile finger of sand which forms Point Hope. 

There was plenty of ice offshore the whole distance, but long be- 
fore reaching our rendezvous the sight of some seventy whaling 
ships of all kinds encouraged Captain Gage to hold his course. 

Presently, two of our Company's vessels steamed up and piloted 



10 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

us through small strips of ice until we anchored on the south side 
of Point Hope in a good lee. 

The direct water route from San Francisco was about thirty- 
five hundred miles. The actual distance we had sailed was any- 
body's guess. I only know that Captain Gage wasn't the only one 
to heave a sigh of relief as we set about distributing mail to all the 
ships' boats which promptly surrounded us. 

As fast as they got it, away they went, leaving the captains of 
our own ships aboard to settle in what order they would get their 
coal. Captain Everett Smith of the steam whaler "Bowhead" drew 
first chance, so that same night it was light all the time now we 
warped the "Beda" alongside the "Bowhead" and gave him his fuel. 

Captain Smith was a fine man and an old-timer at the whaling 
game, and it happened that he and his crew were feeling extra good 
over getting eight large whales. Just the same, I thought it a rare 
kindness for him to insist on steaming all the way back to Port 
Clarence for an Eskimo and his wife who were to cook for our coal 
prospecting party. 

Third in line for her fuel was the "Orca," under command of 
Captain Colson. It had been arranged that the "Orca" was to take 
us the rest of the way to those coal veins north of Cape Lisburne, 
and we lost no time transferring all our supplies and equipment 
to Captain Colson's vessel. Considering the complete "knocked- 
.down" house we had brought along from San Francisco, this 
proved quite a job. But we heaved and tugged and got the last 
piece stowed just in time, so we thought, only to find ourselves 
camped there for three more long days and nights while the deck 
swarmed with Eskimos trading whalebone. The guttural hubbub 
never stopped. 

What impressed me was the air of prosperous independence of 
these natives. But whalebone was selling at the time for more than 
four and a half dollars a pound. So why shouldn't they feel cocky 
at least compared to a handful of white adventurers in search of 
some half-mythical coal supply? 

The crew, meantime, were entertaining us with tales intended 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 11 

to be helpful to greenhorns. For years, it seemed, whenever a ship 
was wrecked in the Arctic the Eskimos had always been allowed 
to do with it as they pleased, even to ordering the crew off. Hence, 
their present reputation for being a bad lot. What they might do 
to a small party of white men wintering among them was a ques- 
tion. Some advised us to give up the idea entirely. 

"At any rate," they warned, "if you ever see a bunch of 'em 
heading your way without their women and children, lock your- 
selves in and be damned sure your guns are loaded" 

We promised. 

In spite of their ominous predictions, we were glad to be on our 
way at last, and relieved when the "Orca" managed to steam up 
the coast as far as Cape Lisburne without meeting serious ice. When 
I mentioned our luck to Captain Colson, his square, grizzled face 
cracked into a grin and he pointed ahead. 

Just around the Cape, we now made out what looked like a com- 
pact mass of ice. 

George and I had been at sea together for several years but ice 
navigation was new to both of us. We watched the "Orca" tackle 
the job with something more than casual interest. 

A deep bight made in north of Cape Lisburne, it was twenty- 
four miles to where we were to erect our house, and the first twenty- 
two were packed by broken ice through which we twisted and 
turned to every point of the compass. 

It was early evening when we entered the bight. By midnight 
all headway stopped. The captain now climbed into the crow's 
nest for a personal survey. His report: A strip of solid ice two 
miles wide separated us from clear water. 

"That ends it for tonight," I said to George, secretly relieved. 
"I'm going below for a little rest." 

Hardly had I pulled off my clothes when the engine-room bell 
rang for "astern." Then came "full speed ahead." Too tired to 
pay attention, I was about to crawl peacefully into my bunk when 
suddenly the "Orca" hit the Rock of Gibraltar and I landed in a 
heap against the forward partition. 



12 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Clawing on my clothes again, I rushed on deck, prepared for a 
scene of utter confusion. But nobody seemed disturbed or even 
excited as the "Orca" backed off preparatory to ramming the ice 
again. 

This battering-ram procedure went on methodically the rest of 
the night. Sometimes the ship would slide up ten or fifteen feet on 
the ice and lie there, rolling a little from side to side as though 
catching her breath before plopping back into deep water. Occa- 
sionally her sheer weight would break the ice. More often it re- 
quired repeated ramming. But always we made some progress, 
anyhow, and several hours later we crashed through the last of the 
floe. Then, nothing lay ahead but clear water to our destination. 

Long before reaching it, however, I had acquired great and sud- 
den respect for whaling captains. You couldn't help it after watch- 
ing that night's work. 

Captain Colson was no exception to dozens of others with whom 
I became intimately acquainted later. They hailed mostly from 
eastern states but all the old whaling centers were represented. 
Whatever else anyone may say about those two-fisted whaling cap- 
tains of the Arctic, believe me they were men. 



CHAPTER II 

CAPTAIN COLSON said that the place we were to land was called 
Corwin Bluff. We took his word for it. 

It was a bluff, all right; too much of one to look very inviting. 
But half a mile south of the bluff proper we could see a gully with 
a small stream emptying on the beach. We pointed this out and 
the captain nodded. 

"There's your spot." 

The "Orca" had seven small boats. Two of them lashed to- 
gether formed a sizeable raft for carrying lumber, and on top of 
the lumber could be piled all sorts of other supplies, including the 
house itself in knocked-down form. 

Even before our crew landed the last load, Haverside and I hur- 
ried off for a first glimpse of the precious coal we had come so far 
to inspect. 

There it lay, the larger veins cropping out on the beach itself. 
Each vein dipped two ways, one about forty-five degrees on the 
face of the cliff, the other pitching downward from the cliff. Eagerly 
we measured the biggest vein. Fourteen feet wide! Several others 
ran from six to nine feet. The rest were much smaller. 

When two more Company vessels came in and all three crews 
set about erecting our house, we went at the coal again for a coldly 
calculating examination. Haverside finally shook his head: 

"Never be able to mine that stuff to advantage. Get some out, 
maybe, working from the face of the cliffs. Want to try it?" 

We did and the earth came down in an avalanche. 

Thinking us greenhorns, some of the crews from other ships tried 
getting an extra supply of coal, and nearly lost two of their men 
in the landslide that followed. 

That settled it. Haverside decided to return to San Francisco 
at the first opportunity and report that coal mining at Corwin Bluff 

13 



14 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

was a lovely dream. George, Woolfe and I would hold the station 
in case the Company still wished to proceed. Nothing suited me 
better than the prospect of a long, care-free winter in that remote 
Arctic wilderness unless, perhaps, it were Africa. 

A day or two after the whalers had pulled out, leaving our house 
up but far from finished, the "Bowhead" put in from the south 
bringing Joe, our new cook, and his wife. Captain Smith also had 
aboard Captain Herendeen and all his equipment for the new whal- 
ing station at Point Barrow. 

Joe proved to be a Port Clarence Eskimo married to a half-breed 
Russian woman. Joe's long suit was cooking, not cleanliness. Ma- 
renka made up for this, though, and kept the house neat enough, 
once we had it completed. 

But putting on the final touches resulted in one of the most pain- 
ful experiences I ever had. Working with a chisel, I was fool enough 
to use my hand as a mallet and soon raised a blister in the palm 
that turned into a felon. I wanted Woolfe to lance the thing, but he 
lost his nerve and wouldn't. 

For three days and nights I walked the country for miles in every 
direction trying to lessen the pain. One morning, as the others were 
about to eat breakfast, a steamer hove in sight from the north. 
This turned out to be the "Baleana," another of our vessels, under 
command of Captain Bouldry. 

When he came ashore I thought the pain in my hand must have 
driven me crazy because there beside him stood Captain Everett 
Smith. Hadn't I seen Captain Smith go north in the "Bowhead" 
just a few days before? 

What brought him back was an incident all too common in those 
early whaling days; an incident of which I was to see many a more 
terrible example in the years to come. 

After leaving us, the "Bowhead" had joined the other ships 
waiting at Icy Cape for the ice on Blossom Shoals to move. Cap- 
tain Smith should have waited, too. He knew that now. For when 
he tried to get around the Shoals ahead of the others the ice sud- 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO IS 

denly came together, crushing in the "Bowhead's" starboard side 
and flooding her engine room. 

"It held us up for three hours, anyhow," he explained, philo- 
sophically, "then, sudden-like " 

His downward gesture was eloquent. 

"But, Captain," I asked, "what happened to your crew?" 

Most of them, it seemed, had found their way to the other 
whalers still at Icy Cape. Herendeen with them, no doubt. Too 
bad about losing all his supplies for the new whaling station. 

"What I want to do," he went on, "is leave the rest of my crew 
here with you. Most of 'em are on the 'Baleana.' " 

"Here with us?" 

"Well, it won't be long. The 'Corwin' is due most any time now 
and what in hell you been doing to your hand?" 

He insisted on lancing the felon at once and I was more than 
willing. That over, the relief was so overwhelming that I went to 
sleep just sitting there on a box. 

When I finally woke up the "Baleana" had sailed, leaving Cap- 
tain Smith, his mate and several members of the ill-fated "Bow- 
head's" crew on our hands. 

I shall never forget our first sight of strange Eskimos heading 
our way. "Lock yourselves in and be damned sure your guns are 
loaded." That was the warning which flashed to mind, only to be 
discarded sheepishly when the newcomers calmly set up camp near 
by. 

There were two families. One from Wevok, a native settlement 
at Cape Lisburne, consisted of a huge, friendly fellow whom we 
nicknamed Baby, and who was accompanied by his sister, a smart 
looking girl of about twelve, named Toctoo. The other family com- 
prised Unocoluto, his wife and their two small children, both 
adopted. 

No invasion could have been more peaceful, no friendships more 
sincere. Physically the strongest man I ever knew, Baby was never 
to leave me for any length of time as long as he lived, while his little 



16 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

sister but more of Toctoo later. 

Corwin Bluff was a secluded spot even in that region of vast 
loneliness. Most of the whaling fleet including sailing vessels 
called "crowbills" because only their "wings" carried them along 
went by far offshore. 

During this summer period, Captain Smith and his old Sharpe 
rifle introduced me to a basic Eskimo superstition that I later ran 
into in many forms. Schools of beluga, or whitefish really a specie 
of small whale sometimes fifteen feet long would often swim along 
the beach. These made fine pot-shots for Captain Smith who always 
managed to kill two or three out of a school. Although they sank 
at once, their white color was so easy to see in three fathoms that 
our Eskimo neighbors would spear the bodies from an oomiak and 
tow them ashore. 

I happened to be there when they landed the second one killed. 
I wanted to cut it up at once but they wouldn't let me. It seemed 
a small request and their sudden firmness was surprising. As I 
stood watching silently, the women brought fresh water in a bucket 
and carefully poured some on the spouthole of the dead whitefish. 
The rest they sloshed over its head. Replying to my questioning 
look, they explained that the whitefish lived in salt water and there- 
fore must have a drink of fresh water before being cut up. 

Why? 

Because otherwise its spirit would tell the rest of the whitefish 
and no more would ever be killed. The same great truth, it seemed, 
applied to any animal taken from salt water. 

The "Corwin" arrived from the north in August and scooped 
up all our guests except a former shipmate of mine named Ed Black 
who had been on the lost "Bowhead." Black was anxious to stay 
with us and we were mighty glad to have another white man in 
the party. So, when Haverside returned briefly on the "Baleana" he 
engaged Black under the same arrangement that George and I had. 

The "Corwin" gone, we dug out enough coal for our needs and 
settled down for the winter with little to do but explore our sur- 
roundings. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 17 

At first I was content to collect a lot of fossils from the adjacent 
cliffs, I took several boat-loads back to the house and the follow- 
ing summer sent them "outside" by Captain Mike Healy on the 
"Bear." Thus began my lifelong hobby of shipping Arctic speci- 
mens of flora and fauna back to the museums of civilization. 

Getting more ambitious, I began to wander farther and farther 
on hunting trips. Then, late in August, with scattered ice still float- 
ing around outside, the male eider ducks began coming from the 
north. We built blinds on the ice and got a lot of these for winter 
use, preserving them in snow banks at the foot of the cliffs above 
our house. 

After one long trek with Baby, I even shot my first bear a 
Barren Ground grizzly. This success, coupled with a two-day hunt- 
ing trip with Unocoluto and his family, gave me the idea that I 
could easily become a wonderful hunter all by myself. 

To prove it, I started off alone one day, taking only a small lunch 
as I intended to be back by evening. All went well until I passed 
the first chain of hills four miles inland. Then suddenly fog closed 
in thick. However, I kept on, expecting it to lift any minute. When 
it didn't, I headed for the house, taking what I imagined was a 
short cut. 

The Lord only knows where I wandered that day until stopped 
by darkness. Next morning I started for home again, pretty hungry 
by now. Although the fog was thick as ever, making the tundra 
appear like a featureless plain, I was sure I knew just where the 
house was now. 

Several times that day I suddenly dropped ten feet or more over 
a bank, and once walked straight into a bluff covered with snow. 
It was a most curious sensation, not knowing where the next step 
would land me. But I kept on, moving cautiously, playing a game 
of blind man's buff in which I seemed destined to be "it" forever. 

Darkness caught me stumbling along the bed of a small stream. 
There I kicked a hole in a snowbank, snuggled in and tried sleep- 
ing with the rifle underneath to keep it dry. But lying, hungry, on 
an old .44 brought little sleep, and morning was welcome even 



18 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

though the fog seemed thicker than ever. 

So I groped along through the third day. Only now I had a 
stream-bed to follow which, I reasoned, would have to hit the ocean 
some time, some place. 

It did just as pitch darkness reenforced the fog. At least I'd 
reached a beach strewn with driftwood. I'd saved a few matches, 
too. Whittling some shavings, I soon had a fire blazing, its flames 
lighting up a hole in the all-pervading fog. 

Awakening was like the sudden rise of a curtain on some brilliant 
stage setting. The day dawned cold and clear, with seagulls flying 
up and down the coast. I followed them with my eye and got quite 
a jolt on making out Cape Lisburne far to the south. Just why I 
should expect to find it north of me is something I never could 
explain. 

Those gulls made my mouth water. Had any flown close I should 
have tried a shot. The hundreds of torn-cods washed up on the 
beach at my feet that was another matter. All were frozen hard. 
If Eskimos ate them this way crunching them down like potato 
chips why couldn't I? At last I picked one up and shut my eyes 
tight. ... It tasted good. 

When I opened them again I distinctly saw a girl standing a little 
distance up the stream-bed. I blinked hard. She was still there. 
Suddenly, I recognized Toctoo, the sister of Baby, coming towards 
me. 

It took a vast amount of chatter and pantomime for her to give 
me even a rough idea of what had happened. 

When I didn't come home that first night, everyone grew anxious, 
and next morning all the Eskimos began looking for me. Toctoo 
had finally picked up my trail and followed it alone for two days 
and nights until well, here she was. 

Here, too, was hardtack and a can of meat she brought from the 
house. I don't believe she'd eaten a mouthful of anything the whole 
time. 

Now, however, she proceeded to fill up on frozen torn-cods, after 
which we started home together along the beach. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 19 

Toctoo was only a little girl, but she knew how to take care of 
herself. Had I wandered through that fog in another direction, 
I have a feeling that she'd have found me, just the same. 

It was an experience I'll never forget as long as I live. 



CHAPTER III 

SNOW covered the ground by the middle of September and my 
first attempts to navigate on snowshoes left the Eskimos weak with 
laughter. 

Another source of constant amusement to them was our Siberian- 
made skin parkas which the "Corwin" had brought us. They were 
much longer than any made on the American side. The figure we 
cut in these cumbersome garments wrung the last drop of hilarity 
from the natives. 

The tables were turned, however, when it came to dog-sleds. We 
had brought two hickory sled-frames with us fitted with steel shoe- 
ing, and I put them together at the first good snowfall. Crude as 
they were, they drew such admiration from all the Eskimos, who 
probably had never even seen a hardwood sled before, that soon we 
were basking in the reflected glory of white man's handicraft. 

Returning home one night, we found another Eskimo family at 
our place. They had come ninety miles down the coast from Point 
Lay, and their reports of caribou only one short day north of us 
had all the Eskimos stirred up and eager to start immediately. 

I had discarded the notion of ever becoming a great white hunter 
among the natives getting lost in the fog had completed the de- 
flating process but if these caribou were half so plentiful as ru- 
mored, here, perhaps, was a chance to redeem myself. 

I talked it over with George. Neither of us had ever taken a 
crack at a deer. And, after all, there wasn't much to do around the 
house. 

"Why, sure," he said, carelessly, "I wouldn't mind bagging a 
few just for the fun of it." 

So we went along with the natives, Baby insisting on acting as 
our body-guard and general factotum. 

Whatever else that caribou hunt accomplished, it taught me 

20 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 21 

how to build a temporary snow shelter. These were quite distinct 
from the sod-covered igloos framed of driftwood or whales' ribs, 
that the natives of those regions used for permanent homes. 

The shelter our Eskimos threw up for the duration of the hunt 
was rectangular, the longer dimension providing comfortable liv- 
ing space for a party the size of ours. The door was in the middle, 
with sleeping quarters at either end separated by a small open space 
where the stone oil lamp was kept. It didn't take long to build. 

After choosing a snowdrift deep enough to dig out for the body 
of the house, they cut big blocks of snow and ranged them around 
the hole, placing one row above another so as gradually to slant 
towards the center of the house. When the walls were pretty well 
up, they cut top blocks so as to meet, forming a sort of gable roof. 

Then they shoveled snow over everything. For the time being, 
not an opening was left. Next they dug away from one side down 
to the level of the bottom, and here cut their door through from 
the outside. We carried in our possessions and stowed them at 
either end. All that remained was the door itself. 

This was a job for the last Eskimo who entered. He simply cut 
a final block of snow, attached a dog harness to it, crawled inside 
and hauled the door into place behind him. Now, everything was 
ready for the night. 

Though lacking frills, our house was comfortable enough for the 
two weeks that George and I spent with the Eskimos hunting 
caribou. 

I use "hunting" advisedly. We hunted. The natives killed. Our 
lack of success wasn't due to any scarcity of game. The place 
teemed with caribou. But where the Eskimos got over forty, George 
and I seemed unable to connect at all. 

Finally, George quit in disgust. Perhaps I didn't possess George's 
independent spirit, but I did stick it out a while longer and man- 
aged to shoot three caribou. That helped. 

Finally I grew tired of hunting, too, and on the fifteenth of No- 
vember, according to my diary kept all these years, Baby and I 
returned to the station with our meat. 



22 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Up to this time I had been content to explore the vicinity of 
the station while awaiting the Company's decision on the coal. 
Now something I learned from a chance Eskimo visitor changed 
all this. He told of native villages far north, along the coast between 
us and Point Barrow. The fact that apparently no white man had 
ever traveled that bleak coast in winter lent added glamor to an 
idea slowly crystallizing in my head. 

Why not visit those distant settlements, find out first-hand what 
the natives were like perhaps, if all went well, even push on to 
Point Barrow, the extreme tip of the continent? 

Both George and Woolfe were dead against any such scheme. 
Five or six hundred miles in the dead of winter without charts was 
crazy enough. But who knew what treatment a white man would 
receive from those distant tribes? Even if I got through to the 
top of the world, what, they pointed out, would I live on coming 
back? 

"You forget/' I argued, "that Captain Herendeen is probably 
at Point Barrow by now setting up the whaling station." 

"What you forget, Charlie," they said, "is that his whole outfit 
went to Davy Jones' locker along with the 'Bowhead,' and God 
knows where Herendeen is himself." 

"I'll bet on Herendeen getting through somehow. And if he's 
there, he'll give me plenty of grub to get back on." 

"Suppose he isn't?" 

"Well, if the natives can live along that coast, so can I." 

When they found my mind made up, George and Woolfe reluc- 
tantly agreed that I might as well go "and get it out of your sys- 
tem." 



CHAPTER IV 

IT was decided that I should take two sleds and three Eskimos, 
including Baby if he cared to go. He did emphatically. For the 
remaining two he recommended Kyooctoo, a good hunter living at 
Wevok on Cape Lisburne; also an Eskimo named Chipic who, he 
said, had once traveled along that north coast in winter and could 
find his way in any weather, like a fox. 

Difficulty arose as soon as I broached the matter to Kyooctoo. 
Unlike Chipic, who looked forward to trading a wolverine skin at 
Utkiavie which he hadn't visited in several years, Kyooctoo was 
just plain scared. He told us over and over that the Innuit at Utki- 
avie were very bad people and would kill him. 

But after much soothing and coaxing we finally got his half- 
hearted promise to go along. 

The women seemed most concerned over my long Siberian parka. 
Figuring, perhaps, that I'd disgrace them among strangers, they 
suddenly got busy remodeling my outfit into something more in 
line with what the well-dressed Arctic traveler should wear. A 
pair of new sealskin pants was the finishing touch. 

Meanwhile, sleds had been overhauled, dog harnesses and sled 
covers made and provisions gathered for the trip. By November 
twenty-fifth I couldn't think of another thing to do but start. So 
we might have set out lacking one great essential if, at the last 
minute, Baby hadn't tactfully mentioned food for the dogs. 

We got off the next day, anyhow. 

Camping that night at our recent hunting grounds where some 
of the Eskimos were still shooting caribou, we headed north along 
the coast at daybreak and made good time. 

At dusk the natives threw up a hasty shelter of snow, using our 
sled covers for a top, then built a five-foot ledge of snow blocks on 
which to prop up the sleds overnight. Had the dogs ever reached 

23 



24 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

them, there would have been nothing left of their hide lashings 
by morning. 

My main job throughout the trip was to make a fire outside and 
do the cooking. Later, whenever a gale blew I always had to build 
a windbreak first. Trouble followed even then until I learned to 
use pieces of birch bark which had drifted in during the summer. 
These would light with a match, and once lit would never blow out. 

Tonight was calm, so that a fire gave no difficulty. My trouble 
lay elsewhere. We were to have bean soup and hardtack, I remem- 
ber, with tea a side dish. Everything got pretty well smoked up, 
but since no one kicked I considered my cooking satisfactory until 
I tasted the stuff myself. After which I followed the Eskimos' ex- 
ample and finished up on some raw frozen deer meat we had along. 

Kyooctoo had been trying all day to tell me something that 
sounded like "Ah-kun nel-la-rog-a-mute took-a-roo." Finally I ap- 
pealed to Baby. It was hard even for him to make me understand, 
although he went through all sorts of pantomime. First he would 
show me a piece of meat, then talk a streak and end by lying down 
with his eyes shut, at the same time repeating "took-a-roo I took- 
a-roo!" 

At last I caught on. What Kyooctoo had been endeavoring to 
drum into me all day was that a white man would die in the cold 
weather. That meant me. But why? 

Again Baby fell back on alternate talking and gesturing, and 
after about an hour of this I was able to piece together the incident 
which had prompted Kyooctoo's warning. 

It seemed that two summers before, three white men had de- 
serted a whaler somewhere along that coast and managed to exist 
until winter when two of them died from exposure. The third, res- 
cued by Eskimos and carried to their village near Cape Lisburne, 
developed pneumonia. 

The natives of that region, according to Baby, never let a person 
die in one of their houses if they could possibly help it, since that 
meant abandoning the house forever. To avoid this, it was their 
custom to put the sick one out in a tent in summer, or a snow shelter 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 25 

in winter, there to die alone or recover, as the case might be. 

But this dying white man presented a new problem. What to do 
with him they didn't know. As a last resort, the village devil-doctor 
beat his drum and went into a trance to find out. The result was 
that four of their women put the dying man on a sled he was too 
weak to walk slid him over to the Cape as gently as possible, then 
mashed his head in with rocks. 

I resolved not to get sick. 

Ever since leaving our caribou camp behind we had noticed the 
hills receding more and more. By the third day, I couldn't tell 
whether we were on land or ice. Whichever it was, the going proved 
good and we fairly ran to a village called Kukpowruk on a river of 
the same name. Nobody was home. We spent the night in one of 
their empty houses, anyhow, and next day found the populace 
camped in eight igloos at a bend near the river's mouth. 

Their amazement was almost laughable as they never had seen 
a white man on that coast in winter. Everything they had to eat 
was trotted out for us and that evening all the men crowded into 
the igloo where I was staying to learn if I cared to trade for fox- 
skins. 

Since good ones were then worth only two dollars each and it 
didn't take much merchandise to get one, I spent most of the night 
buying their entire supply. These I stuffed into a sack to leave 
there until I could pick them up on the way back. I had learned by 
now that in a deal of this sort Eskimos were absolutely honest. 

Chipic urged that we stay here several days. He said the natives 
wanted us to and would be only too glad to feed our dogs. But I 
had no idea of the distance between villages and decided we'd bet- 
ter push ahead. As soon as it grew light, I called to Baby to get the 
others, then went outside to lend a hand loading the sleds. 

One look at our dogs nearly gave me a fit. They resembled a 
bunch of Fourth of July balloons. Since I had refused to visit as 
long as they wished, the women had simply fed our dogs so much 
the poor animals could hardly waddle, let alone draw a sled. 

I lost my temper and stamped around in the snow angrily telling 



26 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

the grinning natives what I thought of such a trick. They only 
grinned all the more. Finally, I joined in the general laugh. 

But next morning before daybreak we got away in a northeast 
gale, the dogs traveling well from having eaten nothing since their 
recent gorge. 

As daylight filtered through, the gale increased, whipping snow 
into our faces like blasting sand and making it impossible to see 
any distance ahead. Chipic, taking the lead as usual, led on un- 
erringly until long after dark, when we reached another village on 
the inside bank of a long lagoon. Chipic seemed to know all these 
places. But how he ever found this one in weather which obliterated 
landmarks completely was a mystery. 

Here again the people were away hunting, so that we had our 
choice of empty houses to make ourselves comfortable in until the 
gale should blow itself out. 

It was going hard as ever next day. Along in the afternoon, how- 
ever, a man and his wife struggled through from the hunting camp 
somewhere inland. They had run out of seal oil and had faced the 
storm to return for more. Their advent helped me out of a great 
inconvenience. 

Since we were traveling on salt ice with no easy way to get a 
drink, I had been bothered continually by thirst, and Baby took 
it on himself to tell the woman about this. As a result, when we 
set out the second morning she presented me with an Eskimo 
"water bottle." 

It was nothing but a seal's hind flipper. The meat and bone had 
been taken out and the skin dried. When starting on a long journey 
it was filled with fresh water. Then, whenever anyone took a drink, 
the skin was stuffed full of snow and carried under the attiga, or 
parka, next the body where the snow soon^ turned to water. 

My flipper-canteen was a mighty handy item all the way up 
the coast. Ordinarily, the water tasted terrible, but if you were 
thirsty enough it was grand. 

We found only one family home in the next settlement some- 
where back of Icy Cape. They made up for it by feasting us and 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 27 

our dogs. This time, though, I saw to it that they didn't put the 
dogs out of commission entirely. 

The sun had been below the horizon for some time now and the 
shortening days cut down the distance we could travel at a stretch. 
But driftwood fuel strewed the coast, often piling up several feet 
high, so we didn't mind camping wherever night caught us. 

One afternoon, just before dark, we stumbled on quite a settle- 
rnent, Kalummiktowrah, and for once the natives were all home. 
They poured out of every igloo, urging us to stay with them a long 
while. What white man's town, I wondered, would act the same to 
wandering strangers? 

But when they let fall that there was an even larger village a 
few miles north I made up my mind to push on next morning. Still 
they persisted. As a last inducement, they politely offered me my 
choice of any of their young girls, and when I refused seemed to 
think me a very curious white man, indeed. 

A rather startled one, I'll admit. It was the first time I'd run 
into this hospitable custom which later I found common enough 
all along the coast. The girls themselves didn't seem to object It 
was a gesture of courtesy, little more. 

The village they spoke of farther north proved interesting for 
several reasons. One was the flattering way its young men and girls 
pounced on us and dragged us, sleds and all, into their headman's 
igloo where meat and fish awaited us along with the rest of the 
population. 

Another worthwhile reason was the proposal made by Arngning, 
the headman. If we'd stop a while, he promised to go with us as 
far as Utkiavie, the biggest Eskimo settlement in Alaska and only 
eleven miles this side of Point Barrow itself. 

I agreed to stay two days, but largely to placate Kyooctoo who 
had been getting more and more scared and was always urging 
delay. When our host, by way of small talk, described how badly 
the people of Utkiavie were treating Eskimos from the south, poor 
Kyooctoo nearly died. A couple of days' rest, I thought, might brace 
him up. 



28 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

In general, Arngning's village resembled the others we had vis- 
ited on the coast. But a few miles back beyond some hills I wit- 
nessed a really remarkable sight. Here were many veins of coal, 
some on the surface. I remember measuring one of them eight feet 
thick. Not only was all this coal on fire, but they said it had been 
burning for years, having started one summer long ago from the 
campfire of a careless hunting party. For all I know, the stuff is 
burning yet. 

"But why don't you use it for fuel?" I asked, innocently. 

That was considered a joke of the first water. What could they 
burn coal in but stoves? And who wanted them? 

We lingered in that village an extra day, after all. I had forgot- 
ten for the moment the quaint Eskimo amenity of over-feeding 
visitors 7 dogs. But the next morning, having refused the custom- 
ary offer of my choice of girls, I was relieved to start north again 
with Arngning and his dog-sled now added to our party. 

Long before reaching Point Belcher and Sedaroo, its ghost- 
village of mostly-abandoned igloos, we began to notice empty casks 
along the beach hundreds of them. Also, we passed the remains 
of several wrecked vessels, their battered hulks shoved high on 
the shore by ice. 

The mystery was cleared up that night in Sedaroo. Keawak, the 
fine old headman of this once-populous settlement, told me "the 
tale a strange one of unavoidable shipwreck but needless human 
destruction. 

It happened a number of years before when numerous vessels 
were wrecked in a great storm. According to custom, the Eskimos 
were soon ransacking their cargoes. Since white man's food meant 
nothing to them, they dumped flour all over the ice, using the flour 
sacks for sails and snow-shirts. 

Ignorant as they were of white man's food, the natives knew all 
about white man's alcohol. They even believed that anything com- 
ing in a bottle was whiskey. When they broke into the ships' medi- 
cine chests, they promptly gulped down whatever the bottles con- 
tained. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 29 

Many died in their houses. And because none of the surviving 
Eskimos would ever go in to take them away, the bodies were still 
there even while Keawak was describing the catastrophe. 

Much later, while visiting Sedaroo one summer, I found the 
houses falling apart but those bodies still there. 

It was anything but summer-like the morning we pulled out, 
joined now by Keawak who had suddenly decided to go a distance 
with us towards Utkiavie and Point Barrow. The weather was 
bitterly cold, brilliantly clear, with a full moon that threw every- 
thing into sharp relief over a two-mile radius. 

All that day the crowd of us made excellent time along a huge 
lagoon back of Peard Bay. Finally, Keawak emitted a grunt of 
farewell and left us abruptly, heading inland. Our pace then slack- 
ened due to the nervousness of Baby now, as well as Kyooctoo. 
Neither knew just what the people of Utkiavie would do to stran- 
gers from the south. 

We took three sleeps to cover that final stretch to Utkiavie. The 
last day our travel was very slow, indeed. We were always stopping 
to let Chipic and Arngning tutor the other pair on what they should 
do in the approaching crisis. One man was to follow each of them 
as they neared the settlement. Finally, they must make a run for 
it. If they could get into some house before any of the villagers 
knew they had come especially if they could manage to eat some- 
thing there it would entitle them to be treated like guests for the 
time being, and at least stave off the inevitable rough stuff. 

Utkiavie was situated on a bluff fifty feet above the ocean. A way 
this side we left the sea-ice and clambered up narrow paths to the 
top. From there, a trail led straight to the big cluster of houses five 
hundred yards ahead. 

I stood there catching my breath from the steep climb when 
suddenly all four Eskimos started for the distant igloos as fast as 
badly-scared Eskimos could run, leaving me alone with the three 
sleds. Next instant our dogs spotted the village, too, and leaped 
forward excitedly, but couldn't keep up with the Eskimos. 

Meantime, I had got out my old Colt revolver and strapped it 



30 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

under my parka just in case. There was nothing to do then but 

hop on one of the sleds and let 'er go. 

Whisked in among the igloos, I found myself promptly sur- 
rounded by what seemed hundreds of surprised natives, all talking 
and laughing at once. Some of the older ones shook hands with 
me as I sat there on the sled looking around. Then one of them, 
called Ooshalloo, invited me into his house where he insisted on 
my peeling off my parka. He was equally insistent that I get up on 
a shelf in the back of the room. 

I hesitated a little, but did so. It wouldn't pay to let the old boy 
see that I was in any way alarmed. But, looking down at the crowd 
of natives who had wormed in after us, I had the distinct impres- 
sion of being on exhibition for no good purpose. 

Next, one of Ooshalloo's two wives took my shirt and cleaned it 
of snow, after which she silently handed me some black whale- 
skin, or muctuc, to eat a sinister action like offering the last meal 
before an execution. I had finished one of the tough, rubbery slabs 
and was starting to gnaw the other, when all at once a powerful 
hand reached out from the crowd, grabbed me by the collar and 
yanked me clear to the middle of the floor. 

I let go the muctuc and was fumbling desperately for my gun 
when a voice boomed out in perfect English, 

"Drop that damned blackskin and come over to the house!" 

No sight will ever be more welcome than the grinning, bewhisk- 
ered face of Captain Herendeen. 



CHAPTER V 

"COME on/' he urged, enjoying my expression, "unless you prefer 
blubber to decent food." 

I scrambled to my feet, pushed through the good-natured crowd 
and followed him until we came to quite a civilized wooden house 
half a mile from the village. 

"You seem pretty much at home with that crowd," I said, as he 
ushered me in with a proprietory sweep. 

"Why not? I lived here two years with Lieutenant Ray. He built 
this house for a magnetic observatory, you know." 

Then I remembered how Herendeen had been with the Inter- 
national Magnetic Expedition as hunter in 1881 and 1882 before 
convincing the Pacific Steam Whaling Company that this was just 
the place to start a farthest-north whaling station. So here he was 
back, despite shipwreck and loss of supplies. 

When the "Bowhead" went down off treacherous Blossom 
Shoals, he had taken to the ice with officers and crew and managed 
to reach another vessel of the fleet which had finally landed him 
exactly at his goal. Then, canvassing other whalers in the vicin- 
ity, he had succeeded in accumulating another outfit. 

He said that as soon as Ooshalloo took me into his igloo, the 
young men had brought my sleds directly to him and told him 
that another white man had just come up the coast. So he had hur- 
ried over and I knew the rest. 

One thing I didn't know, and it worried me. Chipic and Arngning 
would probably be safe enough among these Utkiavie natives be- 
cause they seemed to understand them. What would happen to the 
terrified Kyooctoo and especially to Baby whom I thought the 
world of was another matter. My last glimpse of them racing for 
cover was not encouraging. 

"They're holed up in some igloo safe for a while," Herendeen 

31 



32 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

guessed. "I doubt if you'll set eyes on them for a couple of days." 

I didn't. 

But there were plenty of other things to see. The period of dark 
days had brought all the Eskimos flocking into the village, which 
meant native dancing every night. All three dance houses were 
kept packed except for a cleared space in the center just large 
enough for two, or maybe four, to perform at a time. 

I never saw more enthusiastic dancing. The men sat at the back 
of the house singing and beating tomtoms on their kelouns, or 
native drums. Presently, everyone in the place would be singing. 
Then, suddenly, a man would leap up and start dancing, going 
through all sorts of antics with his arms, yet always keeping per- 
fect time. Next, a woman would join him, weaving her body side- 
wise from the hips up while her shuffling feet never missed a beat. 
Rhythm personified! 

Twice I went to Nubook, a small nearby village out on the tip 
of Point Barrow, to see the dances there. At my second visit they 
put on quite a show. 

It revolved around a ravenskin and a white foxskin fastened to 
a board in such a way that they could be worked by somebody in 
the background pulling strings. In trying to escape the fox, the 
raven hopped all over the board in realistic fashion. The story rep- 
resented something out of their folklore, doubtless centuries old. 
I couldn't catch the fine points of the plot, but the way they did 
it was really clever. 

One day a lone Eskimo came up the coast from Icy Cape. A 
poverty-stricken specimen he seemed, his sole wealth consisting of 
one turquoise bead and a couple of dogs hitched to a broken-down 
sled. He said he was on his way to Nubook to trade. I turned to 
Captain Herendeen: 

"What can he get for one bead?" 

"We'll see when he comes back." 

Although many of the dancers sported beads, sometimes three 
or four heavy strings of them across their chests, I had noticed 
that they were of just two kinds one a turquoise, the other made 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 33 

of blue glass with a white heart. Handed down through countless 
generations, their origin a mystery, they stood for wealth and af- 
fluence. 

But that lone Eskimo's reappearance in Utkiavie, after conclud- 
ing his trade with the headman at Nubook, showed the part these 
beads played in the economic life of the natives all along the coast. 
In exchange for his one turquoise bead, the fellow showed up with 
a new sled, five dogs, ten large slabs of whalebone, five cross foxes 
and one silver foxskin, the value of which was well over a thousand 
dollars. 

On the afternoon of the thirteenth poor Kyooctoo came to me 
looking as if he'd been through a thrashing machine. Half the vil- 
lage was with him, everyone chattering excitedly. Learning that 
we'd be leaving for home shortly, the natives had assembled in 
two parallel lines and made Kyooctoo run the gantlet. Baby they 
had let off, since he belonged to a tribe south of Point Hope where 
this sort of thing was not customary. 

In such a "game," the men's job, it seemed, was merely to keep 
the victim in line and prevent his breaking away and gaining the 
sanctuary of another igloo before finishing his run. They depended 
on their women to get in the real licks. 

That the ladies had come fully up to expectations this time was 
evidenced by Kyooctoo's gory appearance. Scratched and gouged 
from head to foot, his clothing in shreds, he was a mess. I wondered 
what implements were responsible until I saw the women proudly 
displaying their fingernails, notched and sharpened especially for 
the event. 

Reflecting on the probable outcome had these women been in 
anything but a playful mood, I got Kyooctoo patched up and 
mended and soothed, both physically and mentally. Three days 
later, on the sixteenth, we left Utkiavie with expressions of great 
good will from the natives, and more to the point an ample food 
supply from Captain Herendeen. 



CHAPTER VI 

REACHING the station some two weeks later, after a trip marked 
chiefly by Kyooctoo's relief at putting Utkiavie behind, I tried to 
settle down for the rest of the winter. 

No use. Successful completion of that cold walk up the coast to 
Point Barrow and back brought on a restlessness which grew worse 
as I saw winter slipping away. What did the coast look like south 

of us? 

When I broached the matter to Baby, he explained eagerly that 
if we went where he was brought up, two sleeps south of Tigara, 
we'd have fine hunting in the hills. Also his relatives, who were 
"good Eskimos/' would undoubtedly sell me all the furs I wanted. 

That last really settled it so far as I was concerned. 

No sooner did Woolfe find out that Tigara on the tip of Point 
Hope was then considered the largest native village in Alaska, next 
to Utkiavie, than he wanted to go along that far himself to trade 
with the headman of so important a place. 

That was all right with me. To insure added help in emergencies, 
I decided to take along a strapping young Eskimo named Awaclak, 
besides, of course, Baby. Then, on second thought, Woolfe per- 
suaded Unocoluto to join the party in order to bring him back from 
Tigara with all his fancied booty. 

Getting away at last, the five of us made Wevok that first night. 
Then, rounding Cape Lisburne in crisp, clear weather, we hurried 
south for two days and drew close to Tigara just before dark. 

Unocoluto now revealed a great secret. Tigara, he announced, 
was his home village and we must stay at his house while there. 

We might have done so except for being met at the outskirts by 
one of the strangest, most paradoxical specimens of the human 
race I ever encountered before or since. He was the headman, 
Attungowrah by name. 

34 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 35 

When this surly, thick-set brute with cunning eyes and Neander- 
thal jaw indicated that we would lodge with him, there was noth- 
ing more to be said. It was funny, though, to see the expression on 
Woolfe's face as he sized up the man he'd hoped to do some really 
profitable trading with. 

We soon discovered that the whole village was scared to death 
of Attungowrah. Not only did the natives believe him the strong- 
est man in the world, they were firmly convinced that he had the 
power to kill anyone he didn't like by devil-driving. To them, he was 
the greatest devil-doctor of all time. And, naturally, Attungowrah 
didn't go out of his way to argue otherwise. 

After we had made ourselves at home, the Attungowralt house- 
hold proved somewhat crowded because he kept four secondary 
wives there too. His head wife dwelt in a house by herself from 
which, however, she ruled the rest with a firm hand. 

One day, for reasons I didn't understand at the moment, At- 
tungowrah asked me to walk with him to the graveyard, which ex- 
tended for miles and looked like a vast forest of small trees with 
their tops cut off. But instead of wood, the uprights were jawbones 
of whales to which were lashed the lower jaws of walrus. These 
last supported wood platforms and on them rested most of the 
bodies. 

A few, though, still lay on the ground where they had been 
dragged on old sleds belonging to the deceased. All were wrapped 
in sleeping skins, and around each grave I saw articles that the 
person had used in daily life. For example, in the case of a woman 
there would be her sewing gear, her colura, or woman's knife, her 
cooking pots; perhaps even her personal ornaments. 

A man's body was indicated by hunting implements, a pipe, now 
and then the keloun on which he had pounded out many a tomtom 
for dancers now long dead. If a child were buried, his toys littered 
the place. Whatever was left at a grave had been thoroughly 
smashed so as to be of no use to anyone alive. 

With many of the bodies decayed and fallen down, the place 
took on a gruesomeness exceeded only by Attungowrah J s purpose 



36 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

in taking me there. After showing where the members of his family 
were laid up to dry, he led the way to a private rack and pointed 
to the four bodies it held all men, he explained, significantly, 
whom he had murdered. 

The fact that one of them was a fresh arrival added to the effect 
he wished to convey. Namely, that he, the great Attungowrah, 
was a very tough guy, indeed, and what was I going to do about it? 

Much to Woolfe's disappointment, the old boy refused even 
to look at his trade goods, although we were at Tigara several days. 
Finally, Woolfe came to me in disgust and said it wasn't any use, 
that he and Unocoluto were going back. 

"With all those goods?" I asked. 

"Listen, Charlie, I'll leave the stuff here for him to look over by 
himself. Why don't you leave yours, too, and we'll go back to- 
gether?" 

When he saw that I was determined to continue on south and 
take my goods with me, he and Unocoluto pulled out for home. 

Their going brought a change in Attungowrah. I have always 
thought it was because I refused to give up my outfit. At any rate, 
next morning he suddenly told me to get out of the village, that he 
didn't want me there any longer. 

We were in his house at the time, and coming out of a clear sky 
it gave me a jolt. All I could do for a minute was stand there and 
look at him. 

Now, seven years at sea had taught me the earmarks of a bully 
and what surprising things can happen when somebody calls his 
bluff. Whether or not this scowling giant fell under that category, 
a sweep of anger made it easy to take the chance. 

"I'll quit your house," I said, "but I won't leave your village 'til 
I get damned good and ready." 

Without a word he left the igloo. I lost no time getting my be- 
longings together and pitching them out after him. But before 
following, I strapped my Colt revolver under my attiga. 

He was waiting close beside the entrance when I emerged. I 
brushed past without taking the slightest notice, dumped my stuff 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 37 

in front of the next house and sat down at its entrance to see what 
would happen next. 

Thinking, perhaps, that only a misunderstanding could possibly 
account for such foolhardiness, Attungowrah then came over and 
told me again that I'd have to clear out, adding, pointedly, that 
he'd kill me if I didn't. 

Remembrance of that newest body in his private graveyard con- 
vinced me that he really intended adding me to his grizzly collec- 
tion. It seemed time to act. I reached for the Colt, and, pointing it 
at his stomach, made him understand that if he went into his house 
for a rifle I'd plug him the second he came out. 

At this, the amazement that came over his face would have been 
laughable in a lighter situation. It was a new experience for the 
great Attungowrah. He just didn't know what to do. But neither, 
for that matter, did I. 

Finally, he turned and walked off slowly to the other end of the 
settlement, leaving me sitting there, revolver in hand, for a good 
half-hour. He must have talked things over with some of the others 
because when he returned it was to assure me that I was a good 
man, after all, and could live in his house again as long as I liked. 
I repeated that I intended to stay in the village a while but would 
have nothing more to do with him or his igloo. 

This seemed to hurt his feelings a lot. 

After a discreet period Baby and Awaclak put in an appearance, 
both greatly worried. Perhaps we'd better leave, they said, before 
the season got too late. 

Long after we had shaken the snow of Attungowrah's bailiwick 
off our feet and were well along towards Cape Thompson, two 
days away, Awaclak and Baby were still making face-saving re- 
marks about wanting to get south before spring thaws set in. 

A third day's travel down the coast brought us to a ruined vil- 
lage where Baby used to live before he and his sister moved north 
to Wevok. Showing no surprise at finding the place deserted, he 
told of wide-spread death by starvation and sickness flu, from his 
description some years before which had scattered the popula- 



38 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

tion. We'd be sure to find a lot of his relatives "up the river." 

So up the river we headed next day, and entered country thick 
with willows, some much higher than our heads. When about thirty 
miles from the coast we suddenly threw a native camp irjto an up- 
roar. None of them, it seemed, had ever seen a white man in this 
region before. 

Baby had been perfectly safe in guaranteeing us a welcome from 
these relatives of his. There was nothing in the line of food they 
didn't offer from their abundance of fish, ptarmigan, rabbits and 
deer meat. Most of all I enjoyed a piece of mountain sheep which 
tasted like mutton. 

What gave the camp an odd look was that the houses, instead 
of being built partly underground, were framed of willow poles 
stuck up and tied together at the top to form an arch. Oil this frame- 
work they placed a six-inch layer of smaller willows which, in turn, 
was covered by dried grass. Finally, they shoveled snow over the 
whole thing. 

I had always considered the igloos on the coast plenty warm 
with their oil lamps going. These willow houses were hot. And all 4 
they burned was a single seal-oil lamp for light. 

It was a well-ordered community. The men hunted all day, their 
women keeping busy patching clothing or snaring rabbits and 
ptarmigan. They used two methods for getting these grouse. One 
was to set snares of braided deer-sinew among the willows where 
the birds had favorite runways. The other used long nets laid on 
top of the snow, often stretching several hundred feet. Women and 
children got behind and drove the birds slowly ahead. If the driv- 
ing wasn't too fast, sometimes a whole flock got tangled in the 
meshes. They fished with weighted deer-sinew nets set under the 
ice. 

The longer we stayed among these friends and relatives of Baby's 
the less cocky I felt at being a white man. Did the complexities of 
civilization, so-called, yield more downright satisfaction than learn- 
ing to make the most out of one's environment, however crude? 

But when we broke away and traveled on to Cape Krusenstern 




ESKIMO WOMEN CARRYING THEIR CHILDREN "PIGGY-BACK" 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 39 

and found there two half -starved, utterly forlorn families, my pic- 
ture of life in the raw turned less rosy. With the ice closed in solid, 
they were now reduced to the scanty remnants of last summer's 
seal-meat so horribly rotten than only an Eskimo could keep it 
down. 

It was a relief to hear of better prospects in a river settlement 
farther south. Here, they said, we'd find at least plenty of fish for 
men and dogs. Why they didn't go there themselves was beyond me. 

Their reports of fish had been so eloquent that we cached most of 
our own grub along the way a bad mistake. 

Several miles south of Cape Krusenstern we wheeled inland and 
hours later plunged into the first real timber I had seen in Alaska. 
Here the going got tough on account of the soft, flour-like snow, 
but turned better after reaching the river. 

Something black was moving on the ice from one bank ta the 
other. Awaclak grabbed his rifle and shot the first land otter I had 
seen. It was about four feet long. Pausing only to throw it on a 
sled, we were following the river when suddenly ahead of us 
loomed a number of houses built of good-sized logs. One even 
had a log porch. 

It was owned by another relative of Baby's a big, friendly 
native named Tutisic who welcomed us all like long lost brothers. 
By now I was so hungry for palatable food, after caching our 
own supply far back, that I could hardly wait for the family to 
prepare supper. 

Here was fish aplenty! My mouth fairly watered at the sight. 
But all of it was so rotten that I couldn't touch a mouthful. 

Our land otter, skinned and cooked on the spot, was a Godsend. 

Tutisic's house, like all the other log cabins there, reminded 
me strongly of some peculiar Russian ones I had seen much far- 
ther south. This was interesting. Hadn't they copied them from 
the Russians? I inquired, eagerly. 

Nobody knew. All they were sure of was that when people lived 
in the timber they always built houses like this. 

There followed another day's journey, another village, another 



40 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

welcome another offering of rotten fish. 

I turned in hungry that night and arose, hungrier still, for a 
thirty-mile trek that landed us at an isolated house thoroughly oc- 
cupied by an ancient Eskimo, his three sons and their wives. 

But it wasn't the furs I bought here that caused the place to 
linger pleasantly in memory. It was because their fish, while 
tainted, could nevertheless be gulped down by a famished white 
man. 

Both Baby and Awaclak advised heading home now because 
April was on us and soon the overflowing streams would make 
crossings difficult. But when our ancient host described a famous 
native meeting place on a peninsula only two or three sleeps 
away, I thought we could risk that much additional time. 

Had I known that much of the distance lay through timber 
with soft snow deep enough to bury the dogs, I never should have 
attempted it. All the way to the Koobuk River the three of us had 
to break a trail by the intermittent process of wading ahead single 
file, then trampling down a return path to the dogs. That was 
the only way they could wallow through with their load. 

Those three days it took to reach the river were the hardest 
three days' travel I had ever experienced. It was the only time I 
really wished myself back in civilization. 

Once on the river ice, though, two easy days brought us to a 
big settlement on the end of the peninsula where the town of 
Kotzebue now stands. 

Here the natives were accustomed to gather from points as far 
north as Tigara, and south to the mouth of the Yukon. Which 
accounted, no doubt, for the unusual wealth of the headman with 
whom we stayed. His racks were loaded down with bundles of 
Siberian deerskins, bales of Russian tobacco and furs of all kinds 
a veritable gold mine for trading purposes, and well worth the 
whole trip. 

What made our three-day visit particularly pleasing was the 
innate courtesy of the old chief himself. He was a natural host, 
thinking up all sorts of little things to have the women do for us 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 41 

mending and such and finally insisting that his boys give our 
sleds a thorough overhauling. To have offered pay would have 
been an insult. 

Sorry as he seemed to have us leave, he, too, pointed out that 
melting snows would soon make travel impossible a warning 
which threw my two Eskimos into a fever to get away. 

This time we avoided that inland timber country like the plague 
and made fine time northward along the coast, finally picking up 
our cached grub near Cape Krusenstern. 

That was one night when I gorged on white man's food until 
I couldn't look another slapjack in the eye. 

Stopping only to trade powder and lead for foxskins brought in 
from the hills by several parties of Eskimos, we went on rapidly 
for three more days. The fourth morning started out fine and we 
hoped to round Cape Thompson by dark. But the nearer we got, 
the worse the weather became. By late afternoon we could hardly 
face the wind which threatened to roll our dogs over any minute. 

It seemed a great find, then, to run across a small igloo where 
a Point Hope family had already taken shelter. We crowded in 
thankfully, but had hardly made ourselves snuggly comfortable 
when two more sled-loads from Point Hope arrived on the scene. 

The igloo was only ten feet square. After the last Point Hoper 
had squirmed in among us, there wasn't room to lie down. All 
we could do was sit there in a huddle. The fact that human bodies 
occupied even the fireplace was of no concern, however, since 
nobody had any food. 

Very early next morning I crawled outside for a breath of air 
and Baby followed. What we found was a gale that put travel 
out of the question. Since neither of us had eaten the night be- 
fore, we got out some beans from the sled and chopped off frozen 
portions to thaw in our mouths before swallowing. 

That night, on visiting our bean sack again, it was empty. 
Seemingly, everyone who ventured outside had stopped and helped 
himself. 

While willing enough to recognize their native custom of shar- 



42 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

ing one's last food, I made up my mind next day that there would 
be no more camping with anybody until we made Tigara. 

For that reason it was around midnight when we neared the 
place, and so inky dark we couldn't see where we were going. Our 
only luck, it appeared, was that darkness would at least enable us 
to avoid Attungowrah. 

We had scarcely stumbled in among the first igloos when some- 
body grabbed the leader in my team and took us right up to his 
house before I knew where I was going. 



CHAPTER VII 

Ax the same instant the old boy came out and invited me inside. 

It was the last thing in the world I had wished. But I was about 
done up by the long day, so finally crawled in after him with all 
my things. 

Attungowrah seemed genuinely pleased to have me in his house 
again. He routed out all five wives to prepare my favorite slap- 
jacks. Then he had them spread out my sleeping skins. Nothing 
was too much trouble this time. The perfect host! 

Just the same, I slept fitfully the rest of the night and it wasn't 
until next day that my misgivings began to wear off. 

I had arrived at a moment of great excitement. One or two whales 
had been reported far out, the first that year, and the whole village, 
including Attungowrah, was too excited over thoughts of spring 
whaling to feel badly disposed towards anyone. 

What really convinced me that the old boy had nothing up his 
sleeve was his unexpected invitation not only to whale with them, 
but to become a member of his own boat crew. 

There were two reasons why I wanted to accept. First, whaling 
was something I knew nothing about. Second, these people were 
still usii^jiaa^.thods handed down by their forefathers and I doubted 
any white man had ever had a chance to "go native" to quite this 
extent. So I snapped up his offer, at the same time making him un- 
derstand how great an honor it would be to join his personal crew. 

From that time on, Attungowrah and I got along fine. 

"But first," I said, "let me go up seventy-five miles to our sta- 
tion beyond Cape Lisburne for more food and ammunition. When 
do you leave?" 

He said in six sleeps sure. Maybe I could make it in time if I 
hurried maybe. 

I hurried, all right, bringing back Unocoluto, several Eskimos 

43 



44 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

from Wevok and two heavy sled-loads which contained, besides 
my shotgun with plenty of ammunition, a coal-oil stove and a case 
of oil. We got in in plenty of time to have enjoyed the last of those 
six sleeps. But there was no sleep for me that final night nor for 
anybody else in Attungowrah's house. 

In a way, it was my own fault. When Attungowrah explained 
why I'd have to sleep out in the entrance hall, the thought prob- 
ably never crossed his mind of a white man wanting to witness 
the native rites which always preceded each whaling season. But I 
argued that, since they were taking me whaling with them anyhow, 
I might as well be in on the devil-driving, too. 

He refused. The other two devil-doctors would object, he said. 

"Who are they?' 7 

When he admitted that Unocoluto was one, I hunted up my old 
neighbor and got him to say that it would be all right so far as he 
was concerned. After a while it was all right with the others, too. 
They cautioned me, though, not to talk or make any sound be- 
cause the devil, or Toondrah, wouldn't like it. 

When I entered Attungowrah's igloo at the appointed time I 
found all openings closed, the gut window covered with deerskin 
and every lamp extinguished but one. Its flickering flame revealed 
the three devil-drivers sitting on the floor, stripped to the waist. 
Each held his native drum. The heat was unbearable. Luckily, I 
had left my boots, squirrel-skin shirt and sealskin pants out in the 
hallway and wore nothing but the lightest clothing. 

As I stood there, blinking uncertainly, Attungowrah motioned 
me up on the platform at one side and told me to watch closely. If 
I saw the devil I wasn't to be afraid because they were all very 
powerful medicine men, and would protect me from harm. 

Things started with the singing of some of their medicine songs, 
slowly at first, then faster and faster until at last they were shout- 
ing and making all kinds of outlandish noises. It was a good show, 
all right. 

But gradually their earnestness, the gleam of their glistening 
bodies, the din, the hot, heavy air of the place these things began 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 45 

to envelop me in an eerie spell. By the time they had worked them- 
selves into a sort of trance, rolling around on the floor, yet never 
Jetting go those drums on which they kept up a monotonous tattoo, 
I was certain the whole lot had gone crazy and not so sure about 
myself. 

Anyhow, I was so downright scared that it took their next act to 
remind me what it was all about. Having fanned their emotions 
into a proper clairvoyant state, they suddenly dropped their drums 
and lay about on the floor as if dead. Now came the prophecies. 

First one would predict something, then another would take his 
turn until all three had had several tries at telling what was going 
to happen. Unocoluto, I recall, declared that the omalik, or head- 
man, would get three whales this spring. Another said the devil 
had told him that the coming whaling season would be a good one 
and everybody have plenty to eat next winter. 

When it came Attungowrah's turn, the personal nature of his re- 
marks must have made me start because I was quickly aware of 
the old boy eyeing me shrewdly from his prone position on the floor. 

Mostly, his predictions concerned my clothing. The devil, he 
reported, told him that all of it was to be taken from me and that 
I must have a new lot. He said it had been revealed that a squirrel- 
skin shirt like mine would never be allowed on the ice during whal- 
ing because no whales would come near if they discovered such 
shirts being used. My sealskin pants, the pride of Corwin Bluff, 
were pronounced taboo as well. They must all be replaced by new. 

As I waited to see what magic would bring this about, all at once 
the seance ended. Presently, the women returned to perform their 
usual job of filling, trimming and lighting the stone lamps. That 
done, Attungowrah and the other devil-drivers sat around the rest 
of the night, eating and enumerating the endless things I mustn't 
do while whaling. 

For example, no white man's food could be taken on to the ice. 
Nor would I be permitted my sleeping gear; nor any extra cloth- 
ing, even a change of socks. And my only shelter would be a snow 
wall to act as a wind-break. Above all, I must keep very quiet day 



46 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

and night. The slightest sound of hammering or pounding would be 
fatal to success. 

Silly as all this seemed, now that the spell of the seance was wear- 
ing off, I considered their warnings as a sort of "trial by fire," arid, 
more eager than ever to take part in the whaling, accepted these 
various taboos as solemnly as they were offered. 

It gave me a queer feeling, though, to return to the entrance 
hall and find that all my skin clothing had vanished into air. 

Although I never set eyes on any of it again, Attungowrah's head 
wife gave me a complete new outfit of deerskin which caused me to 
look and feel more like an Eskimo than I had thought possible. 
Even the natives jokingly made out that I was no longer a Cabluna, 
or white man, but an Innuit like themselves. 

But never did an Innuit have more to learn about the primitive 
art of whaling from the ice or, for that matter, about the ice itself. 
Let me first explain the ice situation along that coast. 

Permanently attached to the mainland during the whaling sea- 
son, "shore ice" may extend out several miles, depending on the 
depth of the water. Then comes a stretch of "flaw ice" formed when 
portions of the great floating pack become temporarily frozen on 
to the shore ice. The outer edge of this flaw ice is known as the 
"flaw," with a lead of open water beyond. 

It was along the flaw itself that the various Eskimo crews camped 
during the season. Here they sat day and night watching for whales 
passing north through the open lead, at the same time keeping an 
eye shoreward for dangerous breaks that might set their flaw-ice 
"camp" adrift any moment. 

All this I was to learn from experience. At the start, even the 
sled used by each crew for carrying their oomiak to the flaw had 
features new to me. 

Its runners, eight inches high, were held eighteen or nineteen 
inches apart by lashed cross-pieces which projected on either side 
and made a broad support for the boat. Each runner was shod 
with ivory cut from walrus tusk. Ivory, they said, made the best 
shoeing for salt-water ice because it slipped more easily. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 47 

All such details were justified by the importance of the sled in 
hunting whales. The ice was almost always rough, and when the 
pack came in with a bang many a fine skin boat would have to be 
abandoned except for a good sled on which to haul it to safety. 
Sleds were the one thing the Eskimos never forgot. 

During my quick trip to the station for supplies, Attungowrah's 
boat had been re-covered with sealskin and other essential prepara- 
tions made so that we could start at a moment's notice. It meant 
merely lifting the oomiak from its winter rack and lashing it on to 
the sled. 

Most of our crew of eight, including myself, then lined up on 
either side with harnesses over shoulders and commenced the four- 
mile haul over the ice to the flaw. 

So great a man as Attungowrah did no work himself, of course, 
but stalked majestically behind, both arms inside his attiga. With 
one of his wives bringing up the rear carrying a bucket of fresh 
water, we made quite a procession. I dropped back after a while 
to ask for a drink and thought it odd when she snatched the bucket 
out of reach. Presently, I forgot the incident in examining the 
gear carried in the oomiak at my side. 

At the bow was a small ivory crotch to rest the seven-foot 
harpoon shaft in. All our whaling gear was probably prehistoric. 
The ivory harpoon had a cutting edge of slate about ten inches long 
fitted in the end of the shaft. A thong of walrus hide fifteen fathoms 
long formed our whale line. One end was fastened to the harpoon 
head and the line then led back down the shaft, at the middle of 
which a small sinew lashing held it tight until a strain came on 
the line. Then it automatically pulled loose. 

When a whale was struck, only the head of the harpoon stayed 
in the animal. The shaft, floating free, could easily be picked up 
for future use. At the other end of the line they fastened a number 
of floats, each made from the entire skin of a seal. Blown up with 
air, these floats offered a serious drag on any whale trying to get 
away. 

The other weapon commonly used for the kill was a twelve-foot 



48 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

lance. The flint heads of these murderous things were beautifully 
made. Often as large as a man's hand, they had edges so sharp that 
a casual cut from a lance head was one of the most painful wounds 
I ever got. Lances were never thrown because, when used, the boat 
was always so close to the whale that a man simply jabbed in where 
he thought it would do the most damage. 

Among the Eskimos' whaling tools, as distinct from weapons, 
were knives with handles from eight to ten feet long well adapted 
to the tough job of cutting up dead whales. The cutters of these 
knives consisted of pieces of flint, very sharp and set into a bone at 
the end of the handle. They formed regular saw teeth. It was mar- 
velous how quickly a whale's carcass could be sliced up with such 
knives. Then, for hauling chunks of meat out of the water they 
had developed a sort of boat hook, or nixie, made from a piece of 
ivory lashed to a pole. About the only other gear stowed in the 
oomiak were paddles, unless one included the charms always car- 
ried along to bring success. 

Four miles of the hardest kind of sledding brought us to the 
flaw at last. Here we lifted the boat off and set it gently on the 
edge of the ice, convenient for launching. Somebody laid the har- 
poon in its ivory crotch, another saw that the line was in place, 
the rest set about blowing up their sealskin floats. When all was 
ready, Attungowrah's wife performed the final rite by pouring her 
bucket of fresh water over the bow the one reason she had been 
lugging it all that distance. 

Their explanation was that everything killed in salt water needed 
a drink of fresh water after death. Otherwise they would report 
the oversight to others of their kind and no more would ever be 
taken. 

It took me a minute to see where this applied to a boat, however 
"dead" it might be. Then suddenly I remembered that our oomiak 
was covered with sealskin. 

Ready now to cruise along the open lead in search of a likely 
place to camp for whales, we launched the boat and held it steady 
while our harpooner took his place in the bow, the rest seating them- 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 49 

selves two on a thwart. 

Attungowrah, afraid the devil might see that I was a novice and 
send us bad luck, assigned me a place way aft where I'd do the 
least harm. 

A couple of miles south he spotted a small bight where a long, 
level stretch of flaw ice extended well inland. I never should have 
chosen it for a camp-site, but the place suited him fine. Here, he 
explained, whales coming along the flaw would be apt to run under 
this ice and rise to spout in the bight where we could strike them 
easily. All my visions of whaling crews wildly pursuing their prey 
over the ocean fell flat. They waited quietly, it seemed, until the 
whales obligingly came to them. 

Later, I discovered that both methods were practiced; that, 
while "good ice" often brought whales close in, "bad ice" made 
it necessary to go out after them. 

Since ice conditions were pronounced good today, we hauled 
the oomiak out of the water with its bow overhanging about three 
feet for a quick getaway, then made the simplest camp imaginable. 
After cleaning the ice off boat and paddles and blocking up the 
stern with a small chunk to prevent the craft freezing tight, all 
hands threw up a four-foot snow wall around the stern. True, we 
had the sled to sit on behind this wind-break, and the sea to gaze 
at for amusement. But no fire or other creature comforts were 
permitted during the two cold days and nights we waited there 
before anything came our way. 

How I longed for my coal-oil stove and some good, hot tea! 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE only food we had brought on the ice was a slab of muctuc 
and a little frozen deer meat, and I began to think that starv- 
ing must be another essential of their whale-hunting technique. I 
didn't know that each day some woman would come out from the 
village packing cooked meat on her back. 

One of us stayed on watch continually. Meanwhile, the others 
slept or talked, or just squatted there on the sled staring out to 
sea. Not even the occasional sight of a distant whale caused much 
stir. 

But towards the end of the second day one emerged nearby from 
under the ice and spouted a couple of times. Next instant we were 
lined up along the oomiak, waiting for the whale to come close 
enough for our harpooner to strike. However, the animal went 
down and we resumed our dull watch. 

Hardly an hour passed before another whale came from under 
the ice in exactly the same place. This time Capokti, our harpooner, 
clambered over into the bow and, grabbing his harpoon with both 
hands, braced himself for a mighty shock. 

Along came the whale swimming quietly, leisurely, spouting 
every little way and raising its head two feet out of water, I'd never 
seen one so close before and it looked like a mountain. 

Finally, it reached a point directly in line with our oomiak. 

At a word from Attungowrah, the Eskimos now picked up the 
boat and practically threw it at the whale harpooner and all. 

Capokti made no attempt to hurl his weapon. He didn't have to. 
The weight of the boat behind him drove the old stone-and-ivory 
harpoon head over a foot into that black body. 

Although not more than the forward half of the oomiak had 
touched water, before we could haul it back the whale gave a tre- 
mendous kick and went down in a smother of foam, carrying our 

50 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 51 

line and floats with it. Into the boat we scrambled, pell-mell, to 
give chase. But before shoving off from the ice, the sound of At- 
tungowrah's guttural sing-song caused every Eskimo to stop dead 
and sit there as if hypnotized. 

Nothing could show more clearly what importance they attached 
to magic. For consider: Their first whale of the season making 
rapidly out to sea and here they sat like wooden men, listening 
to their headman chant a whale song handed down through the 
years as a powerful charm that never failed. 

Only after he had finished was it permitted to pick up the float- 
ing harpoon shaft, grab paddles and start offshore with a belated 
burst of speed. 

Several other boats, hearing the song across the ice, were on the 
alert now, too. For some reason Attungowrah's charm, no doubt 
the whale only traveled a mile or so, then came up to spout. The 
sealskin floats seemed to be bothering it some as we drew near 
because it swam around in circles. "Gallied," as the whalemen said. 

By this time the bewildered monster was surrounded by a num- 
ber of boats, and although all took turns jabbing in harpoons, noth- 
ing seriously affected its speed for an hour. Then suddenly the 
whale. turned and swam under the flaw ice, taking all those drags 
down with it as if they didn't exist. 

So long a time passed that it seemed we'd lost out. The Eskimos 
knew better. When the animal reappeared, more tired than before, 
our harpoon struck home again. Incidentally, we attached the 
twenty-first float to its body. I counted them. 

Wishing only to be left alone now, it went under the ice again 
and repeated this until it just lay on the surface, completely ex- 
hausted. This was the moment long awaited by our crew. With 
Attungowrah steering, our best lance expert ready in the bow and 
the rest of us paddling hard, we moved in close enough for the 
bow man to use his lance near the animal's flukes in an effort to 
hamstring it. He was only partly successful, yet managed to do 
enough damage to prevent the whale from going down. 

Backing off a way to get a good start, our next maneuver was 



52 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

full speed ahead and this time we never stopped until our bow had 
climbed right up on the whale's back. Then the lance expert cut 
loose with all his skill. A stroke here, another there. Lightning 
speed! Deadly precision! 

Still the whale wouldn't die. 

The Eskimos had one last trick. Shoving the oomiak along until 
part of it lay fairly across the whale's back put our expert in posi- 
tion to lance a large artery similar to the jugular vein in a man. 
Poised for a mighty effort, he jabbed deeply at this vital spot and 
a great fountain of blood spurted high and crimsoned the water all 
about. We backed away in a hurry. 

A dangerous moment! For in dying, the animal went into his 
death flurry with such a thrashing of fins and flukes that any boat 
would have been stove in and its crew injured or drowned. 

Yet, with the breath of life gone at last, nothing looked more 
utterly helpless than that floating carcass towards which the other 
boats came racing. 

Lashing the fins across its belly for easier towing, the Eskimos 
made fast a line to the head, and, all crews paddling, slowly towed 
their prize the quarter-mile which separated us from the edge of the 
ice. 

It was during this towing that I witnessed another example of 
native reliance on charms. The harpooner went aft while Attung- 
owrah sat down amidships where he suddenly produced from some 
hidden source the dried skin of a raven. This he solemnly hung 
down over his back. And there it stayed, I noticed, until after the 
last of the whale had been cut up and divided hours afterwards. 
Just what this charm was supposed to accomplish I never found 
out. 

Once alongside the flaw, the first thing was to haul all the boats 
up on the ice; the second, to send a messenger to the village with 
a piece of the whale's skin tied to a paddle. Thus the women would 
be informed, and one of Attungowrah's wives bring out some fresh 
water to give the whale the customary drink. 

By the time we had finished chipping a long ramp in the edge of 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 53 

the ice to facilitate hauling the carcass partially out, women began 
arriving with sleds, dogs and children. Then for a while it was 
bedlam. Sleds everywhere under foot women yelling children 
shrieking dogs fighting! Stern measures finally restored order 
and work began. But not until the women had poured their fresh 
water on the whale's spouthole. 

After thus preventing word reaching other whales of what had 
happened to this one, some men fastened walrus lines around the 
small of the carcass and, men and women pulling together, the 
flukes were hauled up the ramp as far as possible. In this position 
they could be cut off and dragged back, giving everyone a chance 
to saw away at the body proper. 

First they cut off pieces of blackskin with the blubber attached, 
being careful not to disturb the under side which would serve as a 
sled for sliding the carcass farther up. All this was only following a 
trial-and-error technique. developed through untold generations of 
whale hunting. Getting the whalebone out alone must have taken 
a few hundred years of experiment 

It was a long, hard job at best because the head, heavy with all 
its tough skin and blubber, sank deeply into the water. How they 
could ever raise it high enough to get at the bone was difficult to 
see. 

Once the lips were off, they slit the skin in two places on the 
back of the head, then cut toggles in the ice about ten feet from 
the edge. Next, two four-foot slabs of ice were set up. After a walrus 
line had been rove several times through the head slits, over the 
four-foot slabs and back through the toggles in the ice, their rig 
resembled a number of huge violin strings stretched over the 
bridge-piece. The only thing needed to operate this powerful 
"Spanish windlass" was a piece of driftwood rammed between the 
lines and twisted around and around until the whale's head rose 
clear of the water and offered easy access to the whalebone on one 
side. 

The "Spanish windlass" had been worked with the whale float- 
ing alongside the ice. Now it was rolled over in the water and the 



54 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

other side of the whalebone reached in the same way, after which 
they severed the head itself. 

Working from boats, they removed everything else they could 
get at above or below water. When the whale was once more hauled 
up the ramp it was much lighter, yet too heavy to haul all the way 
out without some new kind of purchase. 

So to the backbone they fastened a strap to which was attached 
a short piece of round wood crosswise of the whale. Then from 
"eyes" cut in the ice, a line was passed around the wood and back 
again ready to be hauled taut at a given signal. The line was wet 
and, slipping nicely over the round wood, turned it into a sort of 
pulley. 

This, then, was the primitive "block and tackle" with which 
they moved what was left of the carcass well up on the ice where 
the ribs were disarticulated and shoulder blades and jawbones 
saved for sled-runners. All remaining now was the backbone and it 
didn't take the old women long to disjoint this with their coluras, 
or women's knives. 

Nothing was lost. The women of all ages saw to this, cutting 
away every scrap of meat from the bones and going at it so reck- 
lessly that it seemed they must surely hack each other to pieces. 

Cutting and disjointing finished and everything sorted out, the 
meat and blubber were divided equally among the boats' crews 
with one exception. We got the flukes and the small as extras. After 
which each boat divided its share among the crew so that everybody 
who had worked on the whale got something. 

When it came to dividing the valuable whalebone our boat was 
allowed a full quarter of that, besides all the short bone from the 
nib end of the whale. The other crews took the balance, share and 
share alike. 

That the hardest physical labor was yet to come didn't concern 
the men. It was the women's job to sled all the meat and blubber 
home and even stow it in the great holes fifteen feet deep that 
served as family "ice boxes." Those women with only a dog or two 
were the worst off. They had to harness themselves alongside in 




Courtesy Arnold Licbes 



WHALING SCENE. THE DARK MASS EXTENDING OUT FROM THE BOAT IN THE 
FOREGROUND IS A WHALE ALREADY KILLED 




"'-'' " Courtesy Arnold Liebes 

A WHALING CAMP LOCATED OUT ON THE ICE 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 55 

order to get their loads home. 

While this back-breaking work went on, we, too, had a few items 
to take care of before going home for a much-needed night's rest. 

Oomiak and paddles must be cleaned of ice paddles placed in 
straight line across stern eagle-skin charm stuck up on stick in 
boat small slab of whalebone from each side of head placed in 
bow under lashings, to be left there as long as the whaling lasted. 

Why all these silly chores? Because no more whales would come 
near our boat if one detail were omitted. 

Our final and most important duty, though, was to assemble the 
whale's end pieces on the ice. This called for high art* 

Corners of the flukes, properly spaced, outlined the tail. A piece 
of blackskin with blubber attached represented the animal's body, 
rendered more realistic by arranging pieces of the fins alongside. 
We laid the actual spouthole just where it would have come in real 
life and, for a final touch, placed bits of the animal's nib end in 
front of everything. 

Viewed through half-closed eyes, the outline bore striking re- 
semblance to a full-size whale lying there ori"the ice. I had no doubt 
the natives actually believed that it would fool the devil, too. 

Of Attungowrah's credulity I wasn't quite so sure. An incident 
had occurred earlier which showed the headman in a new light. It 
was while all hands were busy dividing the meat that he took me 
aside and made a practical suggestion. This: 

Since he was a very powerful devil-driver and we had already 
killed one of the three whales promised him by the devil this year, 
he saw no great harm in sending one of his wives four miles to the 
village for my coal-oil stove and a little tea. He thought if we 
lighted the stove well back from the edge of the ice the whales 
would never know anything about it 

That was all right with me and our tea tasted fine Attung- 
owrah's and mine. For no one else got a taste. The old fraud bra- 
zenly explained that he alone stood in with the devil enough to do 
some things forbidden ordinary Eskimos. 



CHAPTER IX 

A FEW days later, Attungowrah became very angry at life, and at 
the devil ; and particularly at several other crews hunting far north 
of us. 

The long wait for our second whale was getting on the old boy's 
nerves. When news reached us that these other boats had killed 
three he fell into a rage. Apparently, the thing that hurt most was , 
having to hear about it first from one of his own wives when she 
brought us cooked meat. 

He glared back at the poor woman through smoldering, half- 
closed eyes, then, with a burst of gutturals, bundled all hands into 
the boat and started us paddling madly up the flaw in search of 
a luckier place to haul out and wait. 

So far as I know, I escaped the full blast of his wrath. His only 
direct reference to me was something about the devil punishing 
him for having let me make that tea on the ice. 

It took another day before the devil was appeased, and then he 
wasn't quite. For next morning, although we spotted a tantalizing 
run of whales, they were all too far out. Frightened now that the 
devil might not give him two more, as promised, Attungowrah de- 
cided to take matters into his own hands and go after them the 
hard way. 

So we launched the oomiak and chased whales all day long with- 
out a letup. And just when I thought my arms would drop off we 
drew close enough to one big fellow for our harpooner to get ready 
in the bow. After a final burst of speed which shot the boat right 
up on the whale's back, I watched the stone harpoon sink into its 
body out of sight. 

Then things happened fast. As we slid off the animal, one kick 
filled the boat with water and nearly swamped us. But this seemed 
only to weld the Eskimos into a single machine that responded 

56 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 57 

perfectly to Attungowrah's orders from the stern. No sound or 
ripple marked their powerful paddle-strokes, no fear showed on 
any face. Wonderful whalers, those old-time Eskimos! 

I did my best to follow their example, and when the whale sub- 
merged I, too, waited motionless for him to reappear and spout. 
Silence was important, they had explained, because a whale can 
hear better under water than on the surface. 

When this one came up half an hour later, he was close to several 
other crews who managed to get in some fancy lance-work before 
we arrived for the kill. 

It was a much larger whale than our first and the cutting up job 
left everybody ready for a rest ashore. 

That first night something happened that I shall never forget. A 
woman had just died, and before we arrived in the village they had 
put the body on a sled and hauled it two miles up the sandpit. What 
made it more tragic was the fact that she had been pregnant. 

Nevertheless, it seemed unlike Attungowrah to carry on quite 
so violently over the death of a woman who was no relative of his. 
Did his mixture of bluff and ferocity really conceal a soft heart, 
after all? I began to think so until he dolefully confided that noth- 
ing worse could possibly happen during whaling. It might even 
mean depriving him of his third whale for the season which 
would be going just a little too far on the deviPs part. 

After a half-hour's sullen reflection, however, he decided that 
something might still be done about capturing that third whale if 
he consulted the devil and followed directions to the letter. There 
was no time to lose, though. 

Without waiting for dim lights or any such frills, he proceeded 
to work himself into a trance on the spot. As I stood by watching 
his dark, contorted features while he writhed on the floor, it wasn't 
hard to believe that the instructions issuing forth came straight 
from the devil in person. 

They were gruesome enough. The woman's body must be opened 
and the child taken from it, wrapped in sealskin and buried sepa- 
rately. Otherwise, warned the devil, speaking through Attungow- 



58 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

rah, no more whales would be taken that year. 

Snapping out of his trance remarkably soon, the old boy dele- 
gated four women, including two of his wives, to do this carving. 
They demurred. It was the first time I'd seen any of them stand up 
to him for even a moment. But he brushed their terrified protests 
aside and insisted that everything must be done exactly as ordered. 

I hardly know why I asked permission to watch the proceedings 
except that strange customs always fascinated me, and certainly 
liere was something I'd never witnessed before. 

Although surprised, Attungowrah said I might look on if I were 
particularly careful to make no noise. So I tagged along after the 
reluctant women, all four walking single file. 

Two carried razor-edged flint knives set in handles a foot long; 
the others had fashioned themselves nixie hooks out of forked 
pieces of willow. When we came to the body on the sled, they un- 
wrapped it and removed the attiga. Then, hesitating a long mo- 
ment, one took her knife and made a long, deep cut up and down 
the abdomen. 

Another hooked the body of the child with her willow nixie and, 
by pulling hard, succeeded in bringing it out through the incision. 
Just at the last she had to cut away something that held it back. 
This was too much for one of Attungowrah's wives, named Kin- 
murunna, who promptly fainted. Stopping only to drag her out the 
way, the others went ahead with the operation. 

When all was over, the infant's body was gently wrapped in 
sealskins as the devil had ordered, the attiga replaced on the dead 
woman, her body again wrapped in skins. Next, they arranged her 
sewing gear and a few beads alongside. Their last act consisted in 
breaking the sled beyond repair. 

"Let's get out of here," I said, helping Kinmurunna up despite 
her weak protests, and she and I walked slowly back to the village. 
What the others did with the child's body I never found out. 

But I hoped fervently that the devil was satisfied. 

Attungowrah seemed so certain of it that he took life easy a 
couple more days before going on the ice for the last time. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 59 

It was the twentieth of May, and the camping spot chosen was 
a wet one due to melting snow leaving pools of water all over the 
ice. But here he waited confidently through four days and nights 
for his good friend, the devil, to send along that third whale. 

Seated in the boat to keep our feet dry, most of us were dozing 
in the sun when the lookout sounded an alarm. There was no nov- 
elty for me now in helping heave an oomiak at a passing whale, 
seeing the harpoon sink in, then paddling after the struck animal 
for the usual kill. But this whale, a small one, kept us from closing 
in by a most unusual performance. 

Striking well aft, our harpoon had cut some tendon that pre- 
vented the whale from sounding. At each attempt to dive only the 
head went down, leaving its flukes thrashing in air as the animal 
stood on its head. 

The first time this happened we were so close that the wind 
from the flukes almost knocked me overboard. Had it kicked side- 
wise instead of up and down, we should all have found ourselves 
in the water. Other boats had come up, but they kept discreetly 
away from that acrobatic whale until it tired itself out. Then we 
severed the jugular vein, let the animal bleed to death and towed 

it in. 

As we stood about, tired and blood-covered after the laborious 
cutting up, I asked Attungowrah anxiously if this were the last. 
He nodded. Yes, now that the devil had fulfilled his promise we'd 
go ashore and this time take the boat with us. 

It was good news. I'd had enough whaling for a while and felt 
like letting out a whoop. But unnecessary noises were taboo until 
the season ended for all. 

So we silently put the oomiak on a sled and dragged it back to 
the village, there to be propped up on two sleds turned on edge to 
put it beyond reach of the dogs. Just before leaving, Attungowrah 
remembered to put an eagle skin in the stern and to make sure 
that the two small pieces of whalebone were placed under the 
lashings of the bow. 

My immediate wants centered around white man's food, pro- 



60 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

hibited on the ice. Another thing was a white man's bath. 

Since the whole village had moved for the summer into tents 
scattered over the sandspit, I picked out an empty igloo, heated 
some water and, to Attungowrah's amusement, took my first real 
scrub-down in many weeks. 

After that, I roamed around the deserted village for a couple of 
days, then went out to see what the graveyard looked like now. 

It was even more harrowing than in winter. Absence of snow 
revealed skulls and bones all over the ground, together with numer- 
ous bodies never, for some reason, put up on racks. Squirrels fur- 
nished the one cheery note. They were scampering everywhere 
and watching me from every dry knoll. 

I shot a few and carried them back to the tents. But all the 
women looked askance. They wouldn't think of cooking anything 
that grew fat feeding on dead bodies. 

It was just about then that I lost my taste for squirrel meat, so 
it didn't matter. 

At last the fast-softening ice brought the remaining crews ashore 
and whaling from the ice ended. All oomiaks were hauled on the 
beach and propped up the way we had left ours. An eagle or raven 
skin stuck in the stern indicated which boats had been successful. 
While twelve whales had been taken in all, ours was the only crew 
to kill more than one. 

This caused Attungowrah to load his chest with beads, tuck his 
arms inside his attiga and strut around among the tents with all 
the patronizing smugness of the devil himself. 



CHAPTER X 

SINCE the devil had been kind this spring, laughter and good nature 
prevailed everywhere at Tigara. Even Attungowrah could afford 
to unbend now and again, secure in the knowledge that no one 
would outshine him at the feast and whale-dance for which prepa- 
rations were already under way. 

Having picked a big, smooth place on the beach, they dug up 
from somewhere the split skin of a walrus and threaded a line of 
walrus hide around the edge so that it could be grasped anywhere 
through the lacing. Two long diagonal lines, crossed beneath the 
skin and lashed to each corner, led out seventy-five feet to anchors 
formed by logs buried deep in sand. 

Hauling the lines taut over driftwood crotches set up about 
twenty-five feet from each corner raised this skin "stage" five 
feet off the ground, at the same time stretching it tight enough 
to bounce a person like a fire net when jerked by willing hands. 
"Nelakatuk," as they called it then and do yet is a cross be- 
tween a sport, game and dance. 

Three oomiaks turned on edge to act as windbreaks and a few 
old boat covers spread over the sand for the orchestra to sit on 
completed the preparations. 

As each boat-header who had caught a whale gave his dance, 
the small and flukes of his particular whale were brought out for 
all to feast on. 

His family fared excellently, gorging on whale meat plain, whale 
meat fermented, whale entrails, and finally the whale's heart. That 
these items were considered great delicacies was proved by the 
enthusiastic belching which ensued. 

For all that, the big dance itself was what the younger folks 
were waiting for. 

The morning it started every man, woman and child was on 

61 



62 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

hand for the fun; and as I sat down with the rest, the orchestra, 
composed of very old men, took its place on the boat coverings pre- 
pared to sing slow songs and beat drums all through the dance. 

Suddenly, a crowd of excited men and women of all ages rushed 
to the nelakatuk skin, each grabbing hold of the laceline with at 
least one hand. When a song started, some grinning youngster 
would dart out of the crowd and climb into the skin. Then every- 
one would jerk together and he would be tossed up and down until 
unable to keep his footing. Once they had him sprawling helplessly, 
the crowd went wild. This happened more often with men and boys 
than with girls. I saw girls repeatedly tossed twenty feet into the 
air and still retain their balance. 

Eventually, the giver of the dance allowed himself to be tossed 
like the others, but not so high. While performing on the skin, he 
must also hand out a gift. Usually the recipient was some old man 
or woman. But sometimes all the dancer had time to do was toss 
his present into the air and let the crowd scramble. 

Attungowrah, whose turn came the second day, had to give three 
dances one for each whale killed by our crew. True to his dra- 
matic flair, he had let it leak out beforehand that he would give 
away a fine wolverine skin. Consequently, his appearance on the 
"stage" brought a rush of women, each fighting for a vantage point 
close up. 

Any thought I may have had of seeing the old rascal lose his dig- 
nity for once quickly vanished. Although pretending to give him 
"the works," it was clear that they were handling him very gently, 
indeed, as became so exalted a leader. A few conservative leaps, 
and with a flourish he yanked the wolverine skin from under his 
attiga and sent it flying into the crowd. That skin never touched 
the sand. Snatching it from hand to hand like animals, the women 
cut it to pieces in no time with their sharp knives. 

Towards evening of the third day they laid the nelakatuk skin 
flat on the sand in front of the orchestra. Younger men now took 
over the kelouns. Women banked themselves behind to join in the 
singing. The dancers themselves made a far more colorful spec- 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 63 

tacle than before. I noticed several wearing the heads and bills of 
loons, others with headbands of beads, spiral shells and beaver 
teeth. Both sexes displayed all their fanciest skin clothing, com- 
plete with gloves or mittens brilliantly trimmed. 

In the dancing, two or more men would start together, then be 
joined by some of the women, all dancing twice before quitting. I 
had never seen such gyrations as the men went through. Hands 
wriggling, arms waving, heads jerking to the rhythm of song and 
drum, they hopped about, stiff-legged, until it must have jarred 
their teeth loose. 

All this in marked contrast to the grace of the women. Except 
for a curious twisting motion of the hips, their dancing was con- 
fined to bending knees, moving feet sideways and rising rhyth- 
mically on tip-toe. 

And throughout I never saw one of them raise her eyes from the 
ground. 

This sort of thing kept up until along towards morning, when 
all at once the faster beat of the drums 'roused me out of my semi- 
dormant state. Women were falling out now, leaving the men to 
keep pace with the rapidly quickening rhythm. 

Most of them succeeded especially devil-drivers like Unocoluto 
who had reputations to sustain. These men never stopped until 
they had danced themselves into a frenzy and dropped, their places 
taken instantly by others. 

To add to the weird effect, later in the morning a fog closed in 
which distorted everything. People nearby looked small, those far- 
ther off loomed like mountains. As the drumbeats rose to final 
madness it seemed as if the dancers were fastened to strings ma- 
nipulated by the devil and that the rest, sprawled grotesquely on 
the ground, were denizens of hell. 

The last dancer to collapse was hardly less done up than I, a 
spectator, walking back to Attungowrah's empty igloo for some 
sleep. 

One of the few outsiders to whale at Tigara that spring was 
Kyooctoo, who earlier had gone with me to Point Barrow. Know- 



64 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

ing him for a fine hunter, I made him a proposition shortly after 
the whale-dance. 

"Kyooctoo, how about trying for a bearded seal? Or is it too 
early?" 

His face brightened. No, it was June now and he was sure we 
could shoot one asleep on the ice. 

Borrowing white attigas, nearly the color of sea ice in spring, 
we headed south next morning, accompanied by another Eskimo 
who also owned a gun. His, however, was an old-fashioned, smooth- 
bore, muzzle-loading double-barreled affair. I didn't know until 
later that only one barrel carried a bullet, the other being loaded 
with shot for a possible duck. 

We had covered perhaps six miles along the coast when Kyooctoo 
and I stopped at a water hole well out from land. The other man 
left us in order to search farther inshore. As we rested, I felt a 
sharp nudge from Kyooctoo. Then I saw what he saw. 

Three polar bears were coming leisurely towards us from the di- 
rection of Cape Thompson, two of them a mile out on the ice, the 
third about in line with where our friend had paused to examine 
another water hole. 

Rough ice enabled us to hide easily, and the northeast wind pre- 
vented the animals from getting our scent. But we hardly expected 
the fine target they presented, coming up to within fifty feet of 
where we lay huddled on the ice with rifles aimed. 

Our first volley was enough. My prize proved to be a year-old 
cub. Kyooctoo had killed its mother. 

Whether the third bear didn't hear or just didn't mind, he kept 
on between us and the land, drawing closer all the time to the 
other Eskimo. For some reason, the man appeared reluctant to 
shoot. The bear was almost on top of him before he finally did. 
And then he only wounded the animal. When it reared up to charge, 
we saw for the first time what a monster the bear really was. 

Too far away to help, we watched, fascinated, as the man emp- 
tied his other barrel, then started to run for his life. He hadn't a 
chance. From where we stood it looked as if the bear just struck 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 65 

him a casual blow on the head, following this by one bite under 
the arm. Then, leaving the crumpled body where it fell, the en- 
raged animal turned and headed for Kyooctoo and me. 

Although our rifles were powerful enough to kill a bear, we 
daren't risk a miss and held our fire until he came within a few 
yards. . . . Even so, it required several carefully placed bullets 
to finish him. 

The body of the dead Eskimo offered mute proof of the animal's 
strength. That one casual blow had smashed in the skull. That 
single bite had crushed all the ribs on his left side like an eggshell. 

Later, the man's wife, aided by a number of other women, 
brought the body back and deposited it in the graveyard. The 
bear's skin they took home. But its meat they didn't use. 

Whether this incident affected Kyooctoo as it did me seemed 
doubtful. Nevertheless, he announced that he and his family, to- 
gether with Unocoluto, would leave for Wevok on Cape Lisburne 
as soon as the ice melted enough on the north side of the Point to 
get a boat along the beach. I thought this a good chance to get some 
things from our station, twenty-four miles beyond, so told him I'd 
go along. 

The night of June 12 we lashed an oomiak on one of the sleds 
and piled it high with gear. A smaller sled, dragged behind as a 
trailer, held what whale-blubber and blackskin they wished to 
take home for summer use. An odd caravan we must have seemed, 
alternately sledding and paddling our way along the coast. 

As we neared Cape Lisburne the second day, heavier ice made 
paddling impossible. So we left our boat on the beach and presently 
rounded the high, precipitous cape by sled alone, our talk drowned 
out by the screams and flapping wings of thousands of murres and 
gulls which nested along the cliffs in spring. Whenever I fired my 
gun they all flew out, casting an immense shadow over the ice. In- 
deed, I saw many murres fall on the ice and never get off. In order 
to fly, these birds must always get a good start first by flapping 
along in the water. 

Kyooctoo made me understand by shouts and gestures that later 



66 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

on Eskimos would come here from all over to gather quantities of 
eggs, climbing down lines from the crest of the cliffs and filling their 
sealskin pokes. 

At Wevok, where Unocoluto left us, Kyooctoo suddenly changed 
his mind and announced that he and his family would go on to the 
station with me. It was only a short trip but I was mighty glad of 
their company. 

Woolfe was away somewhere when we sledded in six hours 
later. George and Black, however, met me with open arms and 
Baby fell all over himself. His sister Toctoo also seemed glad to 
welcome the white man whom she had trailed through storm and 
fog the fall before. 

After all the novelty and excitement of Tigara, it certainly felt 
good to be home again, if only for a day. 

My trip back to Tigara with Kyooctoo was a quick one, and a 
couple of days later, Woolfe, George, Baby and two other Eskimos 
from Corwin Bluff followed us in a whaleboat, making the whole 
seventy-five miles without camping once. It seemed I had inau- 
gurated a popular shuttle service between the two points. 

"And now," said Woolfe, displaying a lot of trade goods he'd 
brought along, "I wish you'd help me get some whalebone from 
these friends of yours. The old boy must think a good deal of you 
by now." 

Whether Attungowrah did or not, when Woolfe started north a 
few days later with George he took a whole boatload of bone back 
with him, as well as my share in the three whales I had helped cap- 
ture. My agreement with the Company called for shares in every- 
thing I got in Alaska. 

Deepening spring painted a new and softer picture of that rugged 
coast. The sandspit was quite bare of snow now, all lakes and ponds 
free of ice and everything turning green. Farther off Point Hope 
plenty of solid ice still showed, but even this would be breaking up 
soon. And when it did, we could expect the whaling fleet direct 
from civilization. 

Every morning I would take my shotgun and tramp up past the 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 67 

graveyard north of the sandspit on the pretext of shooting ducks, 
actually to see if the ice barrier showed any change. 

On my way back one day with a few steller eiders I had shot, 
two of the more popular Tigara girls came out to meet me, smiling 
and insisting on carrying my game. By this time I was on friendly 
terms with most of the young people, so thought nothing of it until 
their strained silence showed that something unusual was in the 
wind. 

We had nearly reached the tents when suddenly they stopped 
and calmly suggested that the three of us go up into the hills for a 
few days. 

The unexpectedness of such a proposal was a bit overwhelming. 
Taking my surprise for indecision, they promised as an added in- 
ducement to carry the tent and camp equipment on their own backs. 
I wouldn't have to do any work at all, they said. We'd have a 
wonderful time. 

When I finally made them understand that such a thing was 
impossible they were very nice about it. All they asked was that 
I wouldn't tell anybody what they had wanted to do. I never did. 

And these were two of the girls I'd seen perform so demurely in 
the whale-dance, never so much as lifting their eyes off the ground. 

An incredible period, spring in the Arctic! 



CHAPTER XI 

AROUSED by Eskimo shouts early on the morning of June twenty- 
seventh, I crawled out, half-asleep, and looked seaward. 

The sight somehow brought a lump to my throat. After swallow- 
ing hard, I did a little shouting of my own. The solid ice barrier 
south of Point Hope had broken at last. Already several steam 
whalers lay at anchor six or seven miles offshore. 

Next day two of them worked in through the drift ice and lowered 
all their boats to try for some whales that surprised everybody by 
passing quite close to the beach. 

We watched the boats chase whales for a day and a night with- 
out the slightest result except to draw an occasional "I told you 
so" grunt from the scornful Attungowrah. 

Meanwhile, other steamers came in and anchored. The captairi 
of one of them looked me over with sympathy. Then, hoping to 
prevent an otherwise normal white man from going entirely native, 
he insisted on taking me on as a member of his crew. When I ex- 
plained that I was already on the Company's payroll and should 
even then be reporting to our station at Corwin Bluff, he seemed 
relieved, offered me passage there, and treated me fine. 

On July second I stood at the rail of his vessel, looking long at the 
receding village. Good as it felt to have a ship's deck under me 
and be surrounded by white men again, I wouldn't have missed my 
several weeks' dip into the Stone Age for anything in the world. And 
when I compared my first ominous encounter with Attungowrah 
to his subsequent behavior, nerve-racking though it often was, I 
couldn't help feeling a certain sense of accomplishment. 

For three days we broke our way north through floating ice, 
finally anchoring off the station at Corwin Bluff alongside a number 
of other Company vessels. Their captains were all ashore talking 
things over, and I was hardly surprised to find among them my 

68 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 69 

old friend Captain Everett Smith, formerly of the "Bowhead." He 
was always turning up. Now, it seemed, he commanded the "Bale- 
ana." 

Putting my oar into the discussion, I learned that Woolf e already 
had volunteered to hold the station another year, pending a final 
decision on the coal. 

"That suit you, Charlie?" he said. 

"You bet," I answered quickly. "Alaska is all right, but I'm 
ready to go somewhere else for a change." 

So were George and Black. The question was, how were any of 
us to get "outside?" 

Captain Smith had been doing some heavy thinking. 

"If you boys want to finish the season with me," he announced 
somewhat doubtfully, "I'll take you south afterwards. You'll have 
to bunk forward, though," he added, apologetically. "We're pretty 
crowded for sleeping quarters aft, as it is." 

I had to laugh. Compared with some of the places I'd slept in re- 
cently, a whaler's fo'castle would be a palace. 

Shipping with Captain Smith, the three of us bunked forward 
but ate aft in style as the "Baleana" followed north along the coast 
towards Blossom Shoals. Here the Arctic pack was jammed hard 
and fast. 

One day, while waiting for a northeast wind to swing the pack 
offshore, I caught the Captain staring gloomily over the side, but 
had sense enough not to ask if this was about the spot where he 
had lost his ship the year before. He loved the old "Bowhead." 

This time he took no reckless chances of getting the "Baleana" 
stove in, but waited patiently with the other vessels for proper con- 
ditions before rounding the Shoals. Off Wainwright the ice held us 
up again and a southwest gale threatened real damage. But the 
main ice-pack had traveled too far north to come in on us a great 
relief to the old hands, several of whom had sailed on "crowbills" 
a few years back. 

"Aye, 'twas just north of here it catched us," one of them told 
me. "Betwixt here and the Sea Horse Islands. Thirty-two sail in 



70 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

all, we were. Nothing to do but all hands pile over the side and 
watch 'em sink. J'ever try walking on ice what's smashing your 
ship t'hell?" 

I admitted, rather guiltily, that I hadn't. 

"Well, I hope y' never will, son, never." 

Reflectively spraying a stream of tobacco-juice to leeward, he 
turned and went forward. 

Although ice had nothing to do with it this time, our present fleet 
was not to get by without some loss, for the heavy sea kicked up 
by a southwest gale made bad holding ground in the shallow water. 
Soon every steamer had both anchors down and engines churning 
ahead to ease the strain. This saved the steamers. But two sailing 
ships with us pounded over a bar and were thrown high on the 
beach, to be abandoned by their crews who were distributed among 
the steamers later. 

When the gale ended and the wind hauled northeast, we went 
on past the Sea Horse Islands, clear now of ice, and made for Point 
Barrow. South of Utkiavie the pack still formed a great ridge of 
ice offshore. However, by keeping lead-lines going, the "Baleana" 
and two others threaded slowly up the coast through an inside lead 
until we tied up to the ice abreast the old Government station 
where Captain Herendeen had wintered. 

"A rotten season," he admitted. "D'y' know, we only killed one 
whale, and then couldn't save that." 

"Well, if the whales weren't here " 

"The devil of it is, they were! Our men bungled the job. We 
had the best of whale-guns and everything else to work with, too. 
And here the natives got six big ones with nothing but old-fashioned 
harpoons and lances. That's what we're sore about. I don't blame 
the men for wanting to get away from here, but what can I 
do about it?" 

The upshot was that most of them were given berths on the 
steamers. Only two agreed to stick by the station with Captain 
Herendeen and carry on what trading they could with the natives 
the coming winter. 








w-* 

> w 

M " 

H S 





O 



o 
< 




FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 71 

Because each fleet-captain was anxious to end the season with 
a few more whales, we waved goodbye to Herendeen and his two 
companions, steamed around Point Barrow and cautiously headed 
east with the sole idea of seeing how far we could get. 

Two men huddling, half-frozen, in the crow's nest and a third 
swinging the lead day and night kept us moving in seven fathoms 
until at Return Reef the ice closed in solid and brought the "Bale- 
ana" to a stop. This was about three hundred fifty miles east of 
Point Barrow and as far as any of the vessels could get. Since none 
of us had seen the slightest sign of a whale, the captains determined 
to go back to the top of the continent, then cruise west along the 
ice. 

On the way back, however, the sudden sight of a number of 
whales off Harrison Bay sent long-idle boats splashing into the 
water, with eager crews at the oars. One boat, in command of our 
Portuguese second mate, was soon fast to a whale and for a while 
the crew had the ride of their lives. They killed it, though. 

After three other steamers had captured a whale each, the ani- 
mals vanished as mysteriously as they had appeared and we went 
on to Point Barrow for a few days' overhauling. 

By September twentieth, all the sailing ships with the fleet had 
left for home, but we cruised westward along the ice for three profit- 
able weeks during which we added seven more large whales to the 
"Baleana's" score for the season. 

For some time now it had been getting bitterly cold over to the 
west, with young ice making every night and a howling wind blow- 
ing all the time. Soon everything would be too iced up to lower 
the boats. So, on October tenth, as though reluctantly following 
our secret thoughts, the "Baleana" swung her bluff bow southward 
and wallowed away from the ice, with San Francisco a far goal. 

No one aboard was happier than George and I to pass out 
through Bering Strait a few days later and head for Unalaska 
Harbor. There we took on fresh water, and cleaned most of our 
whalebone preparatory to that last long stretch home. 

The fact that I had been away nearly a year and a half made 



72 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

San Francisco look even more like the Promised Land than be- 
fore. Again I swore to stick to civilization from then on. The only 
possible exception might be if a chance came to move still farther 
south Africa preferred. 

When no other job materialized, however, and the Company 
offered me a temporary berth taking care of their ships in winter, 
I finally grabbed it though with the definite understanding that 
I'd never go north again. 



CHAPTER XII 

DROPPING in at the office for my wages one January day, I nearly 
fell over when Captain Knowles asked me pointblank to go back 
to Point Barrow and open up a new whaling station for them. 

I didn't want to seem unappreciative and stammered around 
a while until a perfectly safe "out" suggested itself. 

"Captain," I answered, "if you'll put my chum, George Leavitt, 
in charge, I'll go along as his assistant." 

"That's settled, then." 

We shook hands solemnly and I left to look up George and have 
a good laugh with him over the neat way I'd got out of it. 

The Captain found George first. I never learned exactly what 
passed between them. I only know that George's prompt accept- 
ance left me without a leg to stand on. Having given my word, I 
couldn't back out. 

The Company bought the old coast guard cutter "Rush" and 
changed her into a whaler, renamed the "Grampus." She was to 
be in charge of Henry Dexter, who had been mate of the "Baleana" 
when I came outside the Fall before. I could go north with him in 
March. George, traveling on the Company's tender, a big sailing 
ship called the "America," would meet me at Port Clarence. So, 
yielding to what seemed like Fate, I put lingering regrets aside 
and reported for duty. 

My first assignment, helping receive the crew aboard the 
"Grampus," was enlivened by contact with an ex-convict known 
affectionately (?) as Sunrise Harris. While mate of the "Sunrise," 
this Harris had shot a man down from the yard-arm and served a 
prison term for it. Now he was a Special Policeman. I'm sure 
no man was ever better suited for the gentle art of receiving a new 
ship's crew, most of whom came aboard roaring drunk. 

It was our job to take their liquor away. This called for team- 

73 



74 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

work. After Sunrise had backed a man up to the rail, I'd have to 
confiscate any liquor I found on him. Then, together we'd run him 
to the f o'castle scuttle, drop him down and lock the hatch. 

"Receiving" "with Sunrise was a liberal education, but not one 
to soften a man's sensibilities. I shed no tears when March ninth 
found the ex-convict ashore and myself steaming through the 
Golden Gate for whatever the North might hold this time. 

The monotony of our three-weeks run to Unalaska was broken 
only once, when we ran into a school of spermwhales ten days out of 
'Frisco. The boats had been rigged for whaling. All we need do was 
lower away. The third mate finally bombed one big fellow and 
struck another, killing it after a long chase. 

All this time the ocean, except for these particular whales, might 
have been a vast expanse devoid of life. But the instant we began 
cutting up our whales a thousand sharks converged from every 
direction. We couldn't work without cutting them too. Attracted 
by blood, they were so greedy that they forced themselves on top 
of our whales and bit great hunks out of the carcasses. 

At last we took aboard what whale the sharks left us and called 
it a day. 

Since July sixth, the date agreed on for meeting our tender 
at Port Clarence, was a long way off, the "Grampus" continued 
north at a leisurely gait until we made the ice in Bering Sea. Then 
we coasted westward along the edge to within sight of Cape 
Naverin on the Siberian coast. 

While in the pack we saw innumerable saddle-back seals, so 
called from a curious saddle mark on their backs. The young ones 
were so tame you could pick them up off the ice. But when you did, 
they cried softly and looked at you with eyes actually filled with 
tears, so that I hadn't the heart to kill any. I'll admit though that 
stuffed and roasted by our cook they made fine eating. 

Several times we found ourselves quite close to other whalers, 
one of which, the steamer "Thrasher," belonged to our Company. 
A party of us walked six miles across the ice to visit, or "gam," as 
the whalemen called it, and found on arrival that she had aboard 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 75 

three men Fred Hopson, Patsy Grey and Conrad Siem who 
were to be with us later at Point Barrow. 

Our "gamming" might have been an even greater success if the 
"Thrasher" people hadn't felt quite so cocky for having taken two 
large Bowhead whales with an estimated value in bone alone of , 
about twenty-five thousand dollars. But theirs, we realized, was 
exceptional luck. Few of the other vessels encountered had bettered 
our own score which, so far, stood at exactly zero. 

Towards the end of May we worked out of the pack nearly 
abreast of Plover Bay, then for a while lay hopefully off Indian 
Point, where the "Baleana" had taken seven whales a couple of 
years before. 

I went ashore here and found the Siberian Eskimos entirely dif- 
ferent from those on the American side. The men, especially. They 
were stockier, with features more like the Japs. Nor could I under- 
stand a word any of them said except two old-timers who joined our 
crew. 

One of these considered himself quite a man of the world, having 
shipped on whalers before. Somewhere in his wanderings he had 
heard a boat-steerer singing "Shoofly" and been fascinated by the 
song. Since he was always singing it or trying to his efforts 
promptly earned him the name Shoofly among our men and I never 
knew him by anything else. 

Shoofly's worldliness was revealed his first day aboard when he 
convinced Captain Dexter that if he were loaned a shotgun and our 
small dinghy he'd be happy to get the ship a nice mess of ducks. 
Dexter agreed, giving him two full boxes of shells. 

Three hours later he came back with all the shells used, but no 
ducks. 

"I might have known you couldn't hit a barn door," barked 
Dexter. 

Shoofly protested violently at this slur on his marksmanship. 
He'd shot a great many ducks, he said. The only trouble was, they 
all sank. 

The facts came out later when his companion let it be known that 



76 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

instead of hunting ducks, Shoofly had rowed ashore, unloaded the 
shells and given the powder and shot to his wife. Then, after snap- 
ping all the primers, he had rowed back to the ship with his story. 

The man was a good sailor and Dexter kept him in the crew, but 
we always shot our own ducks after that. 

Another month remained before our rendezvous with the tender 
at Port Clarence, so we spent the next few weeks cruising along 
the western side, touching at the Diomede Islands and East Cape, 
finally pushing as far as Cape Serdze on the north coast of Siberia 
all without seeing a spout. 

In fact, the season was so bad that many of the whalers had 
turned to hunting walrus for the oil and ivory. Off this north Sibe- 
rian coast particularly the walrus congregate in immense herds. 
Most of them are bulls. The cows with their young pass along the 
American side and join the males later on in the season. 

A whaler would sail as near as possible to where one of these 
'herds lay asleep on the ice with an old bull or two posted as sen- 
tinels. Then the small boats would go in close. Each carried an ex- 
pert marksman. His job was to shoot the bulls on watch. If they 
could be killed instantly, the others took no notice, evidently think- 
ing that so long as their "watchmen" stayed motionless, no danger 
threatened. Often an entire herd could be slaughtered in this way. 

It didn't strike me as very thrilling sport though, and I was just 
as well content when Captain Dexter kept on looking for whales 
until the time approached for us to meet our tender over on the 
American side. 



CHAPTER XIII 

PORT CLARENCE presented a lively spectacle in those days, and 
especially at that time of year. When the "Grampus" steamed 
slowly into the huge land-locked bay on July 4th, 1886, 1 counted 
fifty steam and sailing vessels, and then lost track. 

Our tender, the "America/' was there ahead of us. Presently 
George sculled across and grinning broadly, clambered aboard the 
"Grampus." You'd have thought we hadn't seen each other for 
years instead of a brief four months. But those months had con- 
vinced me that I wasn't cut out for life on a whaler. Helping George 
run the Company's station at Point Barrow, with good chances of 
making our personal fortunes in a year or so that was different. 
Oh, we'd show those poor superstitious natives how to whale! 

Captain Herendeen's shipwreck experience had taught us not 
to put all our eggs in one basket, so we began at once to distribute 
our stuff among several of the Company's other vessels bound for 
Point Barrow. Then, while the "Grampus" took on her coal one 
hundred twenty tons for the season we stowed the rest of our 
supplies aboard her, and fumed about on deck watching some of the 
other whalers slip out to sea ahead of us. 

But no sooner had the "Grampus" weighed anchor, after a four- 
day wait, than somehow the leisurely pace of the Arctic took hold 
of me again and I didn't give a hang how slowly the old "Grampus" 
nosed through shallow Bering Strait. 

We stopped an hour or so at Kingegan, the Eskimo name for the 
settlement on the tip of Cape Prince of Wales. I had sailed past on 
the little "Beda" two years before without realizing what an un- 
savory reputation these natives had. I found out now when Captain 
Dexter wouldn't permit a man of us to go ashore. Our mate, Mr. 
Gilley, needed no warning. He wouldn't have left the "Grampus" 
on a bet. 

77 



78 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

It seemed that when he was captain of a trading and whaling 
schooner not long before, he had come in here to anchor for the 
night. That evening a lot of Eskimos paddled out and climbed 
aboard, bringing all their foxskins to trade for whiskey. 

"Against the law? Sure it was," Gilley admitted. "But the ships 
used to do it when the coast guard wasn't around." 

He told how the Eskimos took their whiskey ashore and raised 
Cain all night; how they returned in the morning, drunk and quar- 
relsome, a whole oomiak full of them. Sixteen men and one woman. 
How all but the woman came aboard demanding more booze. But 
since they had nothing left to trade for it, naturally he refused to 
give them any more. That made them uglier still. 

"I had a crew of Kanakas," said Gilley, "and they're a mighty 
peaceable lot unless they really get mad. That's why they stood for 
a good deal of pushing around by the natives while all we were try- 
ing to do was up-anchor and get away. Chances were, nothing much 
would have happened except for my mate, a man named Finnigan, 
and you know what hotheads these Irish excuse me, Mr. Leavitt, 
I er " 

"Go on," grinned George. "What happened?" 

"Well, one of the Eskimos finally went a little too far and the 
mate lost his temper and hit him. Then another drew a knife and 
stabbed poor Finnigan to death and all hell bust loose. 

"I'm telling you those Kanakas went crazy. They grabbed axes 
and spades and lit into the damned Eskimos, driving 'em forward 
under the fo'castle-head in no time. And that was just the begin- 
ning. Soon's they had 'em cooped up there, they'd yank 'em out 
with boat-hooks, one by one, and knock 'em on the head and toss 
'em down into the oomiak alongside." 

Considerably excited by the memory, Gilley pointed shoreward. 
"See that far sandspit, two three miles from the igloos? Right 
there's where their boat drifted ashore with everybody in it dead 
except that one woman. She'd covered herself up with a piece of 
canvas when the row started and lay still in the bottom of the boat. 
Otherwise she'd have been killed too." 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 79 

We shifted our gaze from the distant sandspit to the peaceful- 
looking village, then back to the grim smile on Gilley's face. 

"No, sir, they don't like whites much around Cape Prince of 
Wales," he said. 

The mate of the "Grampus" wasn't the only white man to avoid 
Cape Prince of Wales in those days, and for quite a number of 
years afterwards. Among the few who did risk going ashore, several 
were killed. 

That situation has long since passed. 

With the exception of Cape Prince of Wales, our other stops 
along the coast took on the nature of homecomings for me, reveal- 
ing well-remembered settings, often familiar faces. This was es- 
pecially true at Point Hope where we anchored for two days. 

It was unfortunate, of course, that some of the other ships 
beat us in there and got the cream of the trading. But my old friends 
at Tigara, from Attungowrah down, seemed just as glad to see me, 
and just as sorry to have me go. 

Later, I managed to get ashore at Point Lay where every native 
remembered the only white man ever to have visited them in winter. 
The fact that I could speak quite a bit of their language now caused 
Captain Dexter to commission me to do the trading for the whole 
ship. 

On my last visit to their tents I thought Shoofly, the much- 
traveled Siberian native, might like to come along. Nothing would 
induce him to leave the ship. These Innuit, he repeated over and 
over, would surely kill him if they got a chance. 

Why my friends here should want to injure a harmless stranger 
from Siberia was hard to fathom until Shoofly mentioned two boat- 
loads of hunters from here who had been blown across to the op- 
posite coast a few years before. Instead of feeding the castaways 
and giving them a chance to work their way home, he admitted that 
the Siberians had killed off the men and kept the women for wives. 

All this, he said, was known to the people at Point Lay. Were he 
to go ashore with me, someone who had lost a relative would get 
him sure. 



80 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

I didn't press the matter after that. I didn't even ask Shoofly 
whether he'd had any personal connection with the affair. It seemed 
too delicate a point. 

Blossom Shoals, where we found ice extending twelve miles off- 
shore, meant another long wait before a lead opened up that put us 
beyond Wainwright. Here, too, was familiar ground, with the re- 
mains of the two sailing ships wrecked in the last year's storm still 
visible, their spars down, their hulls shoved farther up on the beach. 

How long, I wondered, before the hulls themselves would dis- 
integrate? In its leisurely way, the Arctic was very thorough about 
such things. 

Again we nosed into solid ice at Point Belcher and counted the 
time wasted until somebody spotted a lot of old casks strewn all , 
over the beach. Captain Dexter took a look through his glass, then 
ordered all the boats ashore. A little extra fuel would help eke out 
the precious hundred and twenty tons of coal allowed him at Port 
Clarence, 

Those empty casks were a real find because formerly they had 
contained oil, and the boatloads of oilsoaked shucks we stowed 
aboard would drive the "Grampus" many an extra mile. 

According to an old Eskimo who stood by watching us compla- 
cently, the casks had been lying there since 1871 when a number 
of ships had been caught in the ice. Waiting as long as they dared, 
tfreir crews had finally taken to small boats and succeeded in pull- 
ing south past Blossom Shoals just before freeze-up. Near Icy Cape 
several vessels had picked them up and carried them to Honolulu. 

Here, apparently, was one of the rare happy endings to what 
might well have been the usual Arctic tragedy. But his story com- 
pleted, the old fellow added one ironic touch, as though to apologize 
for the North letting the white men off so easily. A little later that 
same year, he said, the ice unexpectedly cleared out. If the crews 
had stuck by just a few days longer they might have sailed home 
without the loss of a ship. 

I knew how hopeless those trapped crews must have felt because 
it was early in August before our own ice cleared and let the 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 81 

"Grampus" and other vessels get past the Sea Horse Islands. It 
was a tight squeeze even then, requiring constant shoving and ram- 
ming, first one ship in the lead, then another. Once through, we 
found ourselves way down in Peard Bay, well inshore. Only the 
narrowest of leads opened ahead, with ground ice piled high along 
an outer ridge which paralleled the coast three-quarters of a mile 
from the beach. 

Up this miniature "inside passage" all the vessels that could come 
inside the ridge steamed single file. Every once in a while one would 
ground in the mud and have to be hauled off. The "Grampus" was 
lucky, due to her light draft. But I doubt if anybody in the fleet 
caught a wink of sleep during that final run to Utkiavie. 

On a late afternoon the "Grampus" anchored off our old station 
just beyond the village proper. I'd never expected to see that house 
again. But there it stood, familiar as ever, only with this difference. 
I belonged to it now George and I. From a transient refuge 
among strange natives it had become my headquarters for harvest- 
ing a whalebone fortune from the sea. 



CHAPTER XIV 

GEORGE went ashore at once. Almost Immediately Herendeen and 
his two men left seemingly delighted to get away and an hour 
later we took over the station as eagerly as they had quit it. Then 
for the first time George and I had a chance to size up our men as 
a group. 

Besides the cook and the three I had met while "gamming" the 
"Thrasher" weeks before, there was our former comrade, Ed Black. 
We had found Ed on another ship and arranged for him to join us 
again. George had also hired a New Zealander named Jack Mauri, 
and a couple of Finns Gus Lief and Charlie Ice. 

Ten of us in all. Enough, we thought, to man two whaleboats. If 
a five-man crew was smaller than customary, we had every confi- 
dence of making up for small numbers by our enthusiasm and 
fancied skill. Hadn't I myself learned whaling the hard way from 
those natives down at Tigara? 

But impatient as all hands were to get going, a lot of hard work 
lay ahead collecting our scattered supplies from the different vessels 
and transporting them to the station. 

The big "Orca" was worst of all. Unable to get inside the ridge, 
she calmly dumped her cargo, including our two whaleboats, at an 
Eskimo duck-hunting camp on a narrow sandspit between ocean 
and lagoon a full six miles north of the house. We blew up. 

"Well," George decided, cooling a little, "somebody's got to 
watch that stuff till there's a chance to boat it back along the 
shore." 

Fred, Pat and I volunteered. Keeping vigil on the ice wasn't 
half bad, except that it cut us out of the comedy that took place 
in our absence. From George's description of hiring a crowd of 
natives to pack the rest of our outfit from the beach, it must have 
been quite a show. 

82 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 83 

"They were all so anxious to help/ 7 he explained, bitterly, "I 
figured everything was as good as under cover. But when the job 
started only the women did any work. The men sat on the beach, 
smoking and enjoying themselves. It was the grub that made me 
sorest, though." 

"The grub?" 

"When it came time to eat, naturally I gave all the women plate- 
fuls of dinner. And what did they do? Turned it right over to those 
loafers on the beach." 

The thing had really got under George's hide especially what 
followed. Thinking to protect the women next time, he had the 
cook call them into the house and made them eat there. That 
seemed to work all right until the men, seeing no food coming their 
way, called a strike, took their women and marched back to the 
village. 

"They won, all right," George snorted. "They knew we had to 
get the stuff under cover. After that, the men ate as often as the 
women, but none of 'em did a lick of work." 

The natives took the whole thing as a good joke, and for days 
kidded George by asking whether the men in his country had to 
wait till their women finished eating. 

I believe it was partly to escape the Eskimos' kidding that he 
agreed to fit up our boats for a quick trip eastward along the sand- 
spits even before we were wholly settled. The men gave a whoop. 
All they wanted was to begin taking whales and getting rich. 

Rounding Point Barrow the first day, we met head winds and had 
to camp three days on the end of an island with a long lagoon be- 
tween us and the mainland. I had heard one of the captains refer 
to this as Dead Man's Island. Now I knew why. 

Parts of skeletons and human bodies in all stages of disintegra- 
tion lay everywhere; and with them the usual assortment of broken 
sleds, tools and Eskimo handicraft, some of it probably hundreds 
of years old. Like a fool, I let everything strictly alone. Later, when 
I became more interested in collecting such relics, I found the place 
pretty well cleaned out, most of the articles having been sold to 



84 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

whaling crews by the natives themselves. 

At Point Tangent, thirty miles farther east, large fields of old 
fresh-water ice gave the place an alluring look. Here, we told each 
other confidently, was just what any decent whale would love. But 
after a hard night and day of hopeful cruising with nothing in sight 
save seals, we made camp ashore and turned in, rather disappointed. 

"But wait till tomorrow!" 

Indeed, conditions seemed so perfect next day that it took three 
more long cruises to convince us that our whales, if any, must be 
somewhere else. So, breaking camp, we sailed east as far as Cape 
Simpson. Still no luck. 

"But wait till tomorrow!" 

Tomorrow brought a storm that put whaling out of the question. 
Rather than sit around listening to the vast number of whales we'd 
get farther along, Pat and I took our guns and headed inland to- 
wards a distant hill. If luck were against us for things that swam, 
perhaps we could catch something that ran or flew. We never 
dreamed that beyond that hill Nature herself had done the catch- 
ing. 

No sooner had we reached the top of the rise than a small lake 
spread out before us, its water curiously dark and ranging from a 
liquid center to an asphalt-like substance around the edge. 

"Oil," I guessed. 

Pat disagreed. He'd never heard of such a thing. Nor had I. A 
match touched to the "asphalt" convinced us both. It burned with 
intense heat and lots of greasy smoke. 

Half a mile farther we came to a larger oil lake in the center of 
which were the carcasses of four caribou and just beyond them 
several spectacled eider ducks,, still alive and flapping feebly. Evi- 
dently they had mistaken the oil for water and settled, only to be , 
caught like flies on fly-paper. With their oil-soaked breasts and 
wings, they hadn't a chance. 

We found those oil lakes in August, 1886. They have been "dis- 
covered" and "rediscovered" many times since. But I firmly believe 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO SS 

that Patsy Grey and I were the first white men to set eyes on the 
phenomenon. 

Back at camp on Cape Simpson provisions began to run low. 
Added to that, the ice threatened to come in to the beach at any 
moment. There seemed nothing to do but head for home. Neverthe- 
less when we reached Point Tangent again the offshore ice looked 
as fine as ever and we wasted another night and day in so-called 
whaling. 

With little left now but a canvas bag of tobacco and another of 
coffee, we rowed on west as far as the near end of Cooper's Island, 
and would have kept on if heavy fog hadn't made it necessary to 
camp once more this time on empty stomachs. 

Next morning, though, everybody's spirits lifted with the fog, 
even before we caught sight of a sailing vessel in the ice a few miles 
out. I think the same idea occurred to all of us at once. Now we 
could borrow some grub and keep on hunting a few days longer. 

"Hurry up, Con!" George sang out to Conrad Siem. "Make us 
some coffee, man! It's your turn. Shake a leg, now, or we'll never 
catch that 'crowbill' out there!" 

Poor Conrad, nervous at best, got badly rattled under our urging 
but, fumbling around, managed at last to produce the drink. There 
was a wild scramble. First to grab the pot, I filled my cup and 
gulped down two mouthfuls. Then I quit cold. 

In about sixty seconds I wanted to die. But no such luck. All I 
could do was lie there and listen to Con's frightened explanation of 
how he had used the wrong bag the one containing very black cut 
tobacco. 

Anxious to overtake the "crowbill," the boys didn't stop to make 
more coffee but left me and started away as soon as they saw that 
I'd probably get over it in time. 

The ship, however, was heading for Point Barrow and footing it 
far too fast to be caught. When they returned after several hours, 
they found me stretched out in the same place, so far recovered as 
actually to want to live. 



86 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Since all anybody wanted now was to get home, we rowed 
steadily the rest of the day and all night through a haze which made 
it darker than usual at that time of year. 

I shall never forget the grand climax to our night's work the 
realization at daybreak that somehow, miles back, we had passed 
through the entrance to the landlocked lagoon instead of skirting 
along outside, as we had intended. This meant going all the way 
back again and pulling in at the station late that evening as dis- 
gusted a bunch of amateurs as ever tried whaling off the tip of the 
continent. 

"But in the spring!" 




o 



CHAPTER XV 

GEORGE vetoed any more tries at whaling that fall. There was too 
much to do getting ready for a long winter. 

Better drinking water became an immediate problem. Ten bil- 
lion wrigglers had turned each cupful of our present supply into a 
sort of chocolate aquarium to be downed with closed eyes and sus- 
pended imagination. We planned to remedy this by using a four- 
foot pond only a mile from the house where plenty of ice could be 
secured a little later and melted by the cook each morning during 
winter. Until this pond froze, probably a few more wrigglers 
wouldn't kill us. 

Another essential was eider. We needed it badly, and great flocks 
of ducks were flying over the narrow sandspit, just as they still do 
in August and September. The Eskimos, however, didn't want their 
own hunting interfered with by strangers. 

They had developed quite a system. Those few owning guns 
blazed away from far down the lagoon, killing what they could and 
swerving the rest directly over the sandspit where other natives 
could use their ancient slings, or kalumiktouns. These consisted of 
small ivory balls attached to three-foot lengths of braided sinew 
fastened together at one end. Swung once around the head, then 
thrown into a flock of ducks, the spreading weights curled around 
wings and necks and brought down many a fine bird that had es- 
caped the shotguns. 

In a way, though, we had the last laugh. Prohibited from join- 
ing either group of hunters, we ended by buying all the eider needed 
for less than it would have cost to shoot the birds ourselves. 

As usual, it was the twenty-fifth of September when the last of 
the steamers left the eastern whaling grounds and crawled slowly 
west until only a smudge of smoke hung over the horizon. George 
and I knew how the men aboard her felt. A year ago we too had ex- 

87 



88 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

perienced all the thrills of quitting the Arctic quitting it for good, 
as we thought. Now we were just as glad to stay put. Thoughts of 
the fortune we'd make next spring left no room for regret at seeing 
the last ship disappear. 

Big as Utkiavie was when we arrived, its population grew rapidly 
as native hunters and trappers drifted in from the east. They came 
loaded with deerskins and furs of all kinds, some caught as far away 
as the Colville River. Our village and the smaller one on the tip of " 
the Point must have contained at least eight hundred Eskimos be- 
tween them. 

While the men fixed up their winter ice houses and prepared for 
fall hunting, the women tanned skins and made clothing. Our sta- 
tion, always a popular hangout, soon resembled a sweatshop packed 
with women working around the warm stove. This gave George an 
idea. 

"Boys," he announced one day, sizing up our tattered appear- 
ance, a we need new clothes worse than the Eskimos, and it looks 
like here's our chance." 

That night he bought a lot of skins and each man promptly ar- 
ranged with some old woman to make him an outfit. 

Dressing a deerskin was an ancient art with these old women. I 
never tired of watching the one working for me. First she scraped 
the skin around the edge to smooth out any places that had curled. 
Then she hung it up near the stove to dry until it would crack on 
the hair side. Our stove, I think, was the main reason they liked to 
work at the station, for it took much longer to do the drying over a 
native lamp. 

Once properly dried out, the skin was wet again on the fleshy 
side, folded together, rolled up and left in a cool place for half a 
day. When the woman unrolled it this time it was soft and wet and 
ready to be scraped all over. She usually began with a blunt flint, 
scraping hard and stretching the skin until perfectly dry. Then she 
substituted a sharp flint, finishing up with fine sandstone that re- 
moved all the remaining flesh and even some of the skin. When she 
got through the hide was white and soft as chamois. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 89 

Such was the " tanning" process that produced our new outfits 
two attigas apiece, extra pants, socks, and boots. I don't believe any 
of us was ever so lavishly equipped with clothing before or since. 
It helped our morale. In a way, it even compensated for the whales 
we hadn't caught. 

Unlike Tigara, Utkiavie was ruled by two headmen instead of 
one. Remembering how helpful old Attungowrah had been the year 
before, once he had decided not to add me to his private graveyard, 
I made it a point to get acquainted with both Mungie and Augaroo 
as soon as possible. This wasn't hard because each headman had a 
dance house, or akuzizhe, of his own where everyone seemed wel- 
come including white strangers. 

But I wasn't sure I'd made much progress until the day Mungie 
asked me to go hunting with him early in October. All I need take, 
he said, was white man's food. If I ate what he did I might get sick. 

At the last minute Ed Black wanted to go, too. Since Mungie had 
no objection, Black and I loaded our sled with hard bread, tea, 
coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, cartridges and sleeping-bags, and showed 
up for a moonlight start. It was almost a family affair. 

Mungie's party included his wife, Coccy, a couple of adopted 
sons, a brother-in-law named Appiyow with his wife, and one other 
woman to help in sledding. 

That first week of travel we camped several times with other 
native parties who invariably begged matches of us. I never saw so 
much begging for matches. But it certainly was a cold job trying to 
make a fire with the old flint and steel on which many of them still 
depended. Only a few of the very oldest had ever used a fire-drill. 

Their tinder was a species of thistledown gathered in the fall. 
This they mixed with gunpowder and kept in "water-tight" pack- 
ages. When dry the stuff worked fairly well. If it happened to get 
wet, as was often the case, the poor devils went without fire. 

I didn't begrudge them all the matches we could safely spare. 

Not until we reached the Itkillik River did we stop and build a 
permanent camp. There was no particular reason for selecting that 
spot, so far as I could see, but Mungie's instinct was sound. Next 



90 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

morning the sight of some distant caribou our first got every- 
body excited. Mungie and Appiyow wouldn't even eat. Grabbing 
their rifles, they disappeared, leaving Black and me behind. 

"Caribou! Turn out, Ed!" I shouted, bolting some coffee and 
hard bread. 

He yawned. 

"Aren't you coming?" I asked. 

A good man in many ways, Black was an odd character. After 
insisting on coming along, now, it seemed, he didn't care to hunt. 
He'd rather help the women pack home the meat later. 

Knowing Black, I didn't do any more urging but started out to 
try my luck alone. Well, not quite alone. Coccy made me take one 
of the boys along for fear I'd get lost. Although the kid had no rifle, 
he proved a good sleuth and I called him Pinkerton. 

We hunted all day, Pinkerton and I, and saw a good many car- 
ibou, but hanged if ever I could sneak up on them near enough to 
shoot. On our way home I got reckless and instead of hiding, tried 
walking boldly towards the animals. They waited till I was within 
a hundred yards or so, then, to my surprise, started circling about 
me, coming closer all the time. I banged away with all the car- 
tridges in my rifle and the last one killed a fawn. 

As delighted as I, Pinkerton helped skin it and pack the carcass 
back to camp where we got a good laugh from all the Eskimos. 
Whoever heard of men, or even boys, doing such work? Lugging 
meat was a woman's job. We should have left it there till morning 
when they would have sledded it in along with all the animals 
Mungie and Appiyow had killed that day. 

I noticed, however, that my mistake didn't prevent their sailing 
into my fawn which the women cooked for supper. In fact, the meal 
put Mungie in such a mellow mood that he promised to take me 
with him next day and show me himself just how to hunt caribou. 

He did, too. I'll give him credit for that. He showed me what I 
had stumbled on the day before that if we showed ourselves the 
animals, instead of running away, would stop and look at us out of 
curiosity. It always worked. There was only one trouble. Whenever 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 91 

we got into good position, it was Mungie who did the killing. These 
particular caribou, he'd explain, were intended for Eskimos only. 
If a white man shot one it would have a very bad effect on the devil. 

So I held my fire each time until Mungie had killed six fine ani- 
mals. Devil or no devil, that was enough for any man. Before he 
could squeeze his trigger again I killed another fawn. Whereupon 
Mungie stared at me in scowling surprise, then left abruptly. As 
soon as he was out of sight, Pinkerton, who had been watching us 
for the Lord knows how long, came grinning out of his hiding place 
to make sure I found my way home. 

I thought sure there would be murder in camp that night, the 
way Coccy told the world what she thought of her sullen spouse. It 
was just like him, she announced, her voice sharp with scorn. Mun- 
gie was always jealous if others got any game. She ended by advis- 
ing me never to go hunting with him again, but to hunt alone, only 
letting one of the boys go along as guide. 

Mungie took it all on the chin, staring stolidly at the fire as if he 
hadn't heard a word. I felt a little sorry for the man. 

Nevertheless, I followed Coccy's advice after that and had bet- 
ter luck hunting alone except, of course, for the faithful Pinker- 
ton. I even got used to leaving my "kills" for the women to bring 
back to camp. 

One thing puzzled me. Why did they always grease the hoofs of 
a carcass with a piece of blubber first? 

This had to be done, they explained, because caribou were land 
animals and needed oil as soon as killed. Otherwise, how could the 
hunter expect any more good luck? 

Appiyow took me out one day and was much more generous about 
everything than his illustrious brother-in-law. Besides insisting 
that I always get my full share of game, it was Appiyow who cleared 
up a lot of little things that had me guessing. For example, why both 
of them used small, heart-shaped flints instead of their regular steel 
knives to do the skinning. When skinning with both hands in very 
cold weather like this, he explained, a flint knife could be held in 
the mouth without freezing one's lips. Also, blood froze to a steel 



92 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

blade whenever one laid it down. 

For nine days the caribou passed us traveling southwest. They 
would stop, said the Eskimos, this side of Cape Lisburne and split 
into smaller bands, working down through all the valleys. When 
the sun came back in the spring they would pass this way again, 
and end up just east of the Colville River in time for their fawns to 
be born in May. 

Since we had killed sixty-four during the nine-day migration 
six of them mine we were less concerned with their future wan- 
derings than with laying up a big house of ice cut from the river, 
and caching all the meat we couldn't carry home. 

When the sun returned, said Mungie, viewing the finished struc- 
ture with a satisfied grin, he would return and get the rest. 

Except as a hunting companion, Mungie wasn't a bad sort. But 
with Appiyow you always knew where you stood. That, I think, was 
the basis of the friendship we struck up a friendship that was to 
last for forty years. 



CHAPTER XVI 

these people ever sleep ?" 

We often asked ourselves that question. From early December 
on through the dark days the two headmen's dance houses were 
scenes of continuous activity. You couldn't poke your head into 
one without finding at least a couple of old men beating their drums 
for the benefit of the milling populace. It was dancing by day, story- 
telling day and night. I actually believe many of them never did go 
home. 

But why should they? Every little while some woman would bring 
in food on a platter carved out of a driftwood root. Then what a 
scramble to get there first! There was no "After you" rule in their 
book of dark-day etiquette. 

Having spent so long at Tigara as guest of old Attungowrah who 
held every office in the place a regular Poobah it seemed odd that 
here neither headman claimed to be a devil-doctor. That job was 
held by an old rascal named Owaina, ably assisted by several lesser 
lights. 

When I alone was invited to witness the important winter devil- 
driving ceremony, it turned George and the others green with envy 
or so they made out by their scathing remarks the night I set out 
for the celebration. 

"What! No b'iled shirt?" 

"Hey, Charlie, leave us a lock of your hair!" 

I waved them an elaborate farewell, tramped over to the village, 
and after some formality, was admitted to Owaina's igloo where 
the first part of the rites would take place. 

The gut window, I noticed, was carefully covered. A wolf's head 
hung on the wall, a dried ravenskin beside it, with the head of a 
seagull stuck up in one corner. This last, Owaina wanted me to 
understand, was his own private charm, and very powerful. More 

93 



94 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

interesting was the curious red line drawn all around the house. 

"What is that?" 

He looked about him stealthily, then informed me that it was 
blood. 

"What kind of blood?" 

No answer. 

After letting his silence sink in a minute, he said it might take 
some time to get the devil started and he wanted to begin work at 
once as soon as I left. 

Taking the hint, I crawled outside and joined the big crowd of 
Eskimos waiting around the entrance. 

First, they told me, Owaina would scare up the devil and attempt 
to drive him from the house. If successful, then Owaina's two as- 
sistants would finish the job by running the Old Boy out of town 
with their spears. Thus a year's good luck for the village would be 
insured. 

They were still discussing the chances when a couple of yips from 
within showed that Owaina had begun to throw the usual fit. Then 
he got down to business, and the racket he made would have started 
a dozen devils. He shouted, sang and screeched for the best part of 
an hour. 

All at once somebody at my side declared that he'd just seen the 
devil come up through the entrance. Then another said he had, too. 
Each one added some vivid detail until it was hard for me to believe 
that I myself hadn't caught sight of the Toondrah sneaking past. 

Taking their cue from the general uproar, Owaina's two assist- 
ants now started racing around the village, stabbing ferociously at 
the dark with their spears. Still shouting and brandishing their 
weapons, they finally disappeared to the south and were gone a long 
time. When they came back they gave an eloquent report of how 
they had run the devil out of town and probably killed him. If any- 
one needed more proof, let him examine their spears. 

I did so, gingerly. . . . The stuff on them certainly was blood, 
but whether human or animal I couldn't say. 

Since all the Eskimos seemed satisfied and ready to grant the 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 95 

great Owaina added prestige for freeing them of the devil, perhaps 
it didn't matter. 

Some of our crowd celebrated the holidays that year by attend- 
ing a big native dance on the Point. Fred Hopson and I thought 
we'd accompany one of the Eskimos on a bear hunt, instead. Re- 
suit, no bear, but a number of trapped foxes which were better 
than nothing. As the days commenced to lengthen after January 
first, I kept up my trapping and averaged two or three foxes a week. 

One day I came on a particularly fine specimen just caught. In- 
stead of killing it there, I tied its jaws with a line and carried it 
home on my back to show the crowd. The house was full of natives. 
When I set my fox down in their midst, they couldn't get outside 
fast enough. You'd have thought I had flung down a stick of dyna- 
mite. 

"Now what?" said George, as the rest of us righted overturned 
benches and straightened things up. 

Half an hour later, Nagaroo, one of Owaina's assistant devil- 
doctors, came hot-footing it from the village but stopped abruptly 
outside the door. We could see that he was a badly-shaken Eskimo. 

"Come on inl" bellowed George, with appropriate gestures. 

The fellow wouldn't budge. 

When George went out, Nagaroo informed him that now we'd 
done it, or words to that effect. Not only were the white men in 
for all kinds of bad luck, including no whales that spring, but it 
was likely the Eskimos wouldn't get any, either. Why? Because 
the worst possible.thing one could do was to bring a fox into a house 
alive. 

"Well," George replied, impressed by his earnestness, "can't we 
square things with the Toondrah somehow?" 

Nagaroo gave the matter long consideration. In the end he 
thought it might do some good, perhaps, if a'devil-doctor like him- 
self took the animal outside and killed and skinned it properly. 

Later, when he returned the skinned fox, its head had been sev- 
ered from the body with only a piece of flesh holding it. Whenever 
a fox was skinned the head must be cut off at once, he volunteered, 



96 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

since what all foxes wanted most was a knife. 

Although I never brought a live fox into the house again, I did 
keep on trapping them, and on one such trip at night fell in with a 
herd of caribou only a few miles from the house. That was remark- 
able in itself. Then, as if two perfect shots under a full moon that 
lighted the snowscape for miles around wasn't adventure enough 
for one night, a celestial display followed of such unearthly beauty 
that the recollection after more than fifty years still sends shivers 
along my spine. 

To begin with, the moon became surrounded by a complete 
circle. This in turn was cut by five distinct but incomplete smaller 
circles, with the reflection of a separate moon at each point of con- 
tact. When I add that every circle glowed in dazzling rainbow col- 
ors, you can imagine the effect. A kaleidoscope for the gods ! 

Several times since then I have seen the same type of spectacle 
hanging, silent, in the Arctic sky. But never one so perfect, so bril- 
liantly displayed. 

It was just after the sun returned on January twenty-first to be 
greeted by all the kids with songs and noise that I joined Mungie 
again for a spring caribou hunt. His party consisted of the same 
natives as before, with two exceptions. This time he was taking 
along an extra Eskimo named Tootuc and his wife to help bring 
back the meat we had cached the fall before. The only white man 
in the party, I felt like an experienced hunter by now, quite in- 
capable of silly mistakes such as the two I was to make almost at 
once. 

Our first night out my feet got cold while cutting blocks for the 
snow shelter. But after a while they stopped bothering me and I 
went right on working. The job done and everything fixed for the 
night, we cleaned frost and snow from our fur clothing and peeled 
off our outside attigas to keep them dry. 

It was while knocking the snow from my boots that suddenly I 
noticed my heels had no feeling. I struck a harder blow, still felt 
nothing. Crawling into the shelter, I hurriedly removed my boots 
and socks. Sure enough, both heels were frozen. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 97 

I should have known better than to wear wool socks beneath 
deerskin stockings. Traveling all day, my feet had sweat. Then, in- 
stead of drying out when we stopped, the way skin socks do, my 
woolen ones held the dampness which had turned to frost. 

Frozen heels at the start of a hunting trip was one thing I'd never 
anticipated. Still, I didn't worry much, remembering how often 
snow had drawn out the frost when I was a boy. But Mungie 
wouldn't listen to any such nonsense. The thing to do, he said, was 
to warm my heels as quickly as possible. 

At Mungie's insistence, and much against my better judgment, I 
made my second bad mistake by permitting two young women in 
the party each to take a foot, press it against her bare stomach and 
cover it with her attiga to keep the heat in. There was no pain. After 
a while I began to think that there might be something to Mungie's 
native remedy after all. Then gradually my feet began to hurt. The 
pain finally got so bad that I couldn't sleep at all that night. When 
morning revealed an enormous blister on each heel even Mungie had 
to admit that the hunt was over so far as I was concerned. 

All he could do now was to arrange to have me ignominiously 
hauled back to the station on a sled, leaving the rest of the party 
free to continue inland. This hauling job he delegated to Tootuc and 
his wife on the theory, perhaps, that since they'd only come along 
to haul meat, it made little difference whether the meat were alive 
or dead. 

Reaching the station after dark, Tootuc scared all hands to death 
with the news that I was outside on a sled and couldn't walk. George 
said afterwards that every catastrophe flashed through his mind, 
from broken backs to gunshot wounds everything but frozen 
heels. 

He needn't have belittled frozen heels. Mine kept me in bed 
for a month and a half. 



CHAPTER XVII 

ONE day George came stomping in from the village with a grim set 
to his jaw and ; finding me alone I was still in bed drew up a 
stool. 

"Looks like something's got to be done quick." 

"What's wrong now?" 

"Listen, Charlie. One of the kids just told me that they've shut 
an old woman up in a snow house to freeze." 

Both of us had heard rumors of how the old and decrepit were 
often disposed of in this painless manner a fate accepted as a mat- 
ter of course, perhaps even welcomed by the victims themselves. 
But to come up against a case firsthand gave us a nasty jolt. 

"Well/' I said, "we can't let her die." 

"No. We can't do that. But what's the best way to handle it? Get 
the boys together and go over there in a mob?" 

"Be trouble, sure. Better try it alone first just quietly." 

George left with a sled and I never envied anybody less. But in- 
side of an hour he returned hauling a very wizened old Eskimo, 
feeble with age but quite alive after her brief exposure. 

No one had objected, he said, when he broke open the snow- 
house and carried her out. So here she was, and now what th' hell 
were we going to do with her? 

This the old woman solved for us by promptly making herself at 
home in one corner of the house and stolidly resuming the sewing of 
skin clothing where she had left off when taken out by her relatives 
to perish. 

"Granny," as we called her, kept right on sewing and patching 
for anyone who needed it as long as she was able. She died suddenly 
of pneumonia in the spring without ever having expressed the 
slightest gratitude for being rescued. I honestly believe she would 
have preferred it the other way. 

93 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 99 

For some reason, Nagaroo, the assistant devil-driver, had taken 
quite a shine to me after the live fox incident, and my feet seemed to 
give him great concern. They did me, too. I couldn't take a step 
even yet. At last, yielding to Nagaroo 's urging, I told him to go 
ahead and drive the evil spirit out of my heels, if this could be 
done in the village. I had no intention of turning the station into a 
side-show for the boys. Next day he reported that everything was 
all right and all I need pay him for his work was a piece of tobacco. 

He really earned it a week later by bringing me two pieces of 
wood shaped like sandals, only cut away so as to keep my heels 
from touching anything. Here was the kind of devil-driving a white 
man could understand. To my delight Nagaroo's "sandals" worked 
fine. Soon I was getting around the house quite well. 

Long before the Eskimos began drifting in from their caribou 
hunting, our crowd set to work making tents, overhauling whale- 
guns and bombs, grinding spades and sharpening irons to the ac- 
companiment of loud talk about the whales we'd take as soon as the 
season opened. I'm sure that at times we had at least a dozen dead 
whales safely on the ice in our imaginations. 

The villagers were amused at first by such early preparations, 
but soon began finding fault with everything we did. They objected 
to our hammering. Whales, they warned us, could hear a long dis- 
tance. Our gear was wrong, too. And did we really intend to carry 
tents with us? Cooking on the ice would be even worse. But the idea 
of taking extra footgear along floored them completely. That was 
something absolutely "pelilak" by the devil-doctors as long back 
as anyone could remember. They knew for sure now that we'd 
never get a whale. 

After a while we stopped arguing and began the long job of chip- 
ping a roadway for our boats through the rough ice to the water 
or where we guessed it would be when the outer ice broke away. Not 
a native could be induced to help. What did they care? Their lighter 
oomiaks would need no roadway except in a few of the highest spots 
which they could cut through quickly when Mungie gave the word 
to go. As yet his party hadn't even returned from hunting caribou. 



100 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

On March twenty-ninth, rumors of a whale sighted off Point 
Barrow found us ready and waiting. The Eskimos hadn't started to 
overhaul. Forced to pass up rough work for another week, I stayed 
ashore and watched the others start off sledding the boats seaward 
along our roadway in the ice. 

Four days later all but two came back. I never saw more cocki- 
ness knocked out of men in so short a time. It took a good meal 
before they could describe without cussing how they had launched 
the boats in a nice lead, then sailed south expecting any minute to 
see a whale spout. 

But all they found was the end of the lead. And that closed up 
before they could row back. So there they were, stranded far from 
camp with both boats and all their equipment. 

"You're lucky the ice didn't pressure and crush the boats," I re- 
minded them cheerfully. 

They said that I could sit there and grin because I hadn't put in 
a day and night of man-killing work dragging heavy whaleboats 
over eight miles of ice shaped like the Rocky Mountains. As for the 
other two men, George had left them at the camp to keep watch. 
Time enough for the whole crowd to stay out there when the ice 
opened up for good. Maybe those Eskimos weren't so dumb, at that. 

During the next two weeks pairs of us stood twenty-four-hour 
watches on the ice. Meanwhile, the last of the caribou hunters ar- 
rived and Mungie almost died laughing when told that we'd started 
whaling already. The Eskimos refused to get excited even when 
another report of whales on the sixteenth sent us all out again, pell- 
mell. I went along this time and was boat-steerer to John Shuman. 

Whales were there, all right several of them rising in the nar- 
row lead. But we couldn't get to them by boat because the lead was 
blocked by ice. Finally we took our bomb-guns to the edge, hoping 
for a chance to shoot. John, who had had experience with bomb- 
guns, stationed me near a hole and advised me to aim just back of 
the head so as not to strike a bone. 

Hardly a half-hour passed before a whale rose right in front of 
me a made-to-order shot. I took long, careful aim, pulled the 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 101 

trigger and executed a back somersault. 

Next I knew, everyone came running to where I lay on my back, 
one leg badly skinned and an arm and shoulder feeling as if they'd 
been hit with a sledge hammer. 

"You didn't hold it right/' said John. 

I knew that now. So, probably, did the whale. The concensus of 
opinion was that I'd missed it by a mile. 

Shortly afterwards, the closing lead ended further attempts and 
we soberly went back to the watch-and-watch system. 

That spring a southwest wind kept the ice shut so long that the 
Eskimos themselves grew anxious. Finally they commissioned 
Oomigaloo, a noted wind doctor, to do his stuff. Oomigaloo prom- 
ised to work his most powerful charms provided all the boat-headers 
would pay him in bone if whales were caught, together with all the 
blackskin, blubber and meat he wanted. We had nothing to lose, so 
joined in the general agreement. 

After sending us back a way, he built on the ice a tiny tent about 
three feet high, using willow sticks firmly lashed together for the 
frame and early summer deerskin for the covering. No one but his 
wife was allowed to help. As soon as the tent was done he sent her 
away too. Then, armed with his drum and a dried ravenskin, old 
Oomigaloo crawled inside and fastened the opening after him. 

For ten hours we stood around with the natives, stamping our 
feet and listening to the drumming and singing issuing forth. Along 
towards morning there came a terrific yell, the tent seemed to ex- 
plode and out from under crawled Oomigaloo clutching his drum 
and ravenskin. At the same instant every Eskimo was sure he saw 
a large black bird fly off eastward in the direction from which the 
new wind was to come. 

I don't know to this day how the old boy managed to untie all 
those lashings in such a hurry. What I do know is that when the 
circus was over and we went out to our boats a light air actually 
started in from the northeast. By noon it was blowing strong. That 
evening the solid pack, immovable for days, broke off two miles be- 
yond the end of our road and out over the ice went the oomiaks 



102 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

clear to the water's edge. Not a single crew stopped to help us as 
they passed although they didn't hesitate to use our roadway so far 
as it could serve them. 

Chipping and chopping alone, it took us all night and most of the 
next morning to haul our boats to the new flaw. We got there just in 
time to learn that one small and three large whales had been taken 
by the jubilant Eskimos but that the run was now over. 

It would be! 




w 
u 



O 

(-1 



W 
ffi 
H 



o 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE season was half gone before either of our boats struck a whale. 
When Billy Moggs finally did, it ran under the ice, the iron drew, 
and Billy made a bad guess by searching to the south. 

Meanwhile, in the opposite direction, a whale came up so close 
to Nagaroo's oomiak that they killed it quite easily, which didn't 
make us feel any better. 

As we gathered on the ice, talking it over and watching our rivals 
cut up their whale and divide the bone, one of the natives came by 
and let slip a few words that precipitated a delicate situation. 

Did we know, he asked, that Nagaroo's whale had been wounded 
beforehand? With his own eyes he had seen the marks of our line 
where it tangled when the iron drew. 

Leaving that for us to mull over, the fellow casually rejoined his 
own crowd to help with the last of the whale. 

Our boys "saw red." Most of them insisted that Nagaroo be 
made to hand over the bone, or a large part of it. "A whale," they 
argued, "belongs to the boat that strikes it first." 

True enough, George admitted, but how could we be sure the 
man wasn't lying just to stir up trouble? 

There was something to that enough, at least, to divide the 
camp. But in the wrangle that followed I had sense enough for 
once to keep my mouth shut and "let George do it." 

"If we can't keep track of our own whales," he ruled, with a 
look at Billy who had howled loudest, "the finders can have 'em." 

Some of the boys never quite got over that, but the others soon 
calmed down. I felt myself that George's ruling was a wise one. 
Here we were, a handful of white men a long way from home. Better 
get along with the natives as best we could. 

But I was sorry it had to be Billy again who struck the next whale. 
This one ran offshore in the pack. And before our boat could help, 
he had to let go and so lost his line as well. 

103 



104 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

"I struck him hard" he yelled as we came up. "Don't let him go ! 
Come on ! He can't travel far ! " 

Both boats hunted along the pack all afternoon without finding 
a trace of Billy's second whale. We might have made a night of it if 
the pack hadn't come in, forcing us to haul out on the flaw ice. Most 
of the Eskimos considered this the end of the season and took their 
oomiaks all the way ashore. Only a few of their younger men stayed 
out to prowl around the pack for anything more they might find. 

Billy Moggs wasn't the only disgusted white man now. Of all the 
whales we'd "killed" around the cook stove, we hadn't been smart 
enough to save one on the ice. I think nothing showed the mental 
depths to which we had fallen clearer than Patsy Grey's serious, 

"Maybe there's something to the heathen's silly taboos, at that," 

"Don't be a bigger fool than the Lord made you, man," boomed 
George, with a laugh that saved the day. "Taboos be damned! 
We'll try once more if the ice ever opens. Let's go ashore for a rest 
now." 

"Go ahead," I said. "I don't mind staying on lookout" 

After they left, I kept awake for a while by watching some young 
Eskimos still scouting around out on the pack. Then I turned in. 

Hours later, it seemed, one of them shook me awake to ask if I 
would help them. If so, I must bring along my axe because they 
never took theirs on the ice for fear somebody would pound or 
chop with it. 

H^lf asleep, I followed him two miles out, slipping, stumbling, 
crawling over the jagged surface to where some of the young men 
had found Billy's second whale dead in the pack. Without saying a 
word to me, they had called the whole village out to cut it up. 

I should never have known anything about this except that the 
whale was jammed too fast in the ice for them to roll it over, once 
they had the bone out on one side. To get the rest, the head must 
first be chopped off. What to do? No Eskimo dared break the ada- 
mant rule against pounding while on the ice. 

Suddenly they remembered me. Would it do any harm, they asked 
the devil-doctor, if a white man pounded? Apparently not, for here 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 105 

I was. 

Their colossal nerve in asking me to help them with another 
whale that rightfully belonged to us made me pretty sore at first. 
Then it struck me funny. "Finders keepers," George had decided. 
All right, I'd help them keep their find. 

With a hastily improvised tackle of the usual "Spanish windlass" 
type, they raised the whale's head enough so that I could work 
without getting into the water. I motioned them out of the way and 
grabbed my axe. 

Although I never had chopped off a whale's head, the job had 
always seemed easy enough aboard ship. Now, it took an astonish- 
ing amount of time and hard labor. Before I got halfway through I 
was covered from head to foot with blood and oil. 

The final shred severed at last, they gave me six slabs of bone for 
my work, which was more than our whole crowd had earned all 
season. The devil-doctor modestly accepted the same amount for 
his professional services, including, no doubt, the wear and tear 
on his conscience for having permitted even a white man to pound 
on ice. All the other men had five slabs each, smaller pieces going 
to the women. 

Then came a mad stampede back to the safer flaw ice. Everybody 
was packing bone on his or her back. It took me three hours to get 
as far as our tent, for, besides my six heavy slabs, I had the axe to 
carry, too. 

When the Eskimos got as far as my tent, where all had stopped 
to rest, I suggested that we have some coffee and hard bread. The 
men refused. But, in spite of frightened warnings from husband 
and brothers, one of the women finally volunteered to build a fire. 
Then another brought water. Soon my big coffee-pot was steaming 
full-blast, enveloping the exhausted natives with its tantalizing 
odors. 

A time came when the woman who had built the fire decided that, 
come what might, she'd have some coffee if I would put lots of 
sugar in it. Such brazen flaunting of tradition caused the rest to look 
aghast. When she followed this by tackling a piece of hard bread 



106 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

and still nothing happened, several other women boldly followed 
suit, their eyes shifting furtively from side to side as they chewed. 

I had a feeling that such recklessness was breeding trouble of 
some sort, and it was. The women were still eating when Mungie 
came staggering in loaded down with bone, and nearly fainted at 
discovering what was going on. I never saw him quite so angry. But 
the women of Utkiavie were different from their weaker sisters far- 
ther south. They just let Mungie blow off steam and went right on 
eating and drinking until lack of breath left him glaring at them in 
silent rage. 

I was prepared for another outburst, but hardly for his next 
remark. 

Since nothing had happened yet, he mildly pointed out, and the 
whaling was finished anyhow, he thought the devil wouldn't mind if 
he took a little coffee himself. Whereupon, he poured down five or 
six cupfuls without stopping, then went for the hard bread like a 
wolf. 

After that a few of the other men guiltily tasted the coffee. But 
not many dared break so ancient a whaling taboo. 

Progressive as the natives of Utkiavie seemed compared with 
Tigara, it would be many years before the white man's point of 
view made much of a dent particularly in the treatment of 
women. The behavior of one family was typical. 

As soon as they left our camp to stumble shoreward over the flaw 
ice, the old man hung all his whalebone on his wife's back, first lash- 
, ing the butts so that the tips of the bone stuck out six feet on either 
side. Although the woman took it as a matter of course, it made me 
groan just to see her straining under the load. Not so their two full- 
grown sons. Hardly had they started when the boys hung their 
bone on her back as well. This left them with only their rifles to 
carry. Soon even these were a burden, so they piled them on their 
mother, too. 

It was a sight to remember that loaded-down woman followed 
by three husky men sauntering along with their hands behind them, 
at peace with the universe. 



CHAPTER XIX 

A FEW days after the season closed I saw three figures coming up 
the coast. There was something vaguely familiar about two of them. 
I went outside for a better look. Then I hurried to meet them. 

"Baby! Toctoo!" 

This was like old times. The third figure proved to be Baby's wife. 
All had wintered at Icy Cape, but with spring whaling a flop down 
there, they wanted to work for us at the station. 

"Sure you can/' George grinned, on learning the situation. 
George had always got along well with Baby, and now that Toctoo 
was growing up he recognized her as far superior to most of the 
young native women. 

A Company steamer arrived off the station the first of August 
bringing us stores, an additional man and a bit of interesting news. 
The Home Office, they said, was sending us a seventeen-ton sloop, 
the "Spy," on which we were supposed to hang our two heavy 
boats and try whaling off the bays to the east. 

When the outer ice ridge broke through, permitting other steam- 
ers to put in briefly on their way to the whaling grounds, all eyes 
were glued to the little sloop which the "Orca" had in tow. She 
looked like a peanut. 

"Hang two boats on her?" George exploded. 

We did, though. And if our suspended whaleboats barely cleared 
the water on either side, so that the sloop resembled a squat dwarf 
borne down by two huge market baskets, what did we care? It was 
whales we were after not looks. If this thing would carry us where 
whales were, why, more power to the "Spy." 

Despite its crowded quarters, nobody was more anxious than I to 
try his luck aboard the tiny craft. Then in steamed the "Grampus" 
and upset everything, so far as I was concerned. Her mate had 
broken his leg and Captain Dexter, not wanting to take him farther 

107 



108 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

east, planned to set him ashore, with another member of the crew 
to take care of him. 

"We can't leave the station to strangers/' George decided, taking 
me aside. "I wish you'd stay here and look after things. Will you, 
Charlie?" 

That was the one time George and I came close to a row. I hated 
to be left behind with nothing to do but help nurse a cripple. But in 
the end I made the best of it. As a slight compensation for my per- 
sonal martyrdom, however, I immediately got three old women 
busy tanning skins for an outfit of new clothes that would make the 
other boys' eyes stick out when they came back. 

Prepared to cruise for eight or ten weeks, the "Spy" unexpectedly 
returned in three. She was no deeper laden than when she left. She 
hadn't taken a whale. 

But poor luck, it seemed, could hardly account for the men's grim 
silence, or the strained atmosphere of the station when they filed in, 
dumped their dunnage and stood about, waiting. At last George 
spoke. 

"If anybody here is sick of his job, he can quit right now and go 
out on the 'Grampus' soon as she puts in to pick up her mate." 

"I'm quitting," growled Black. 

The tension broke. Presently the men began acting more like 
human beings, although Black and Jack Mauri appeared to avoid 
each other as much as possible. 

It came out that trouble had arisen between the two almost as 
soon as the "Spy" left. Black wanted to quit then, but George had 
smoothed things over. 

One day, cruising off Harrison Bay, they encountered quite a 
body of whales and Jack's boat, with Black in the bow, managed 
to get alongside a big one worth at least five thousand dollars in 
bone alone. 

"At least that much," George repeated. "For some reason Black 
didn't even try to strike, so we missed out all around." 

After that fiasco Black again asked to be released, adding that 
he'd never strike a whale for Mauri. But once more George talked 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 109 

him out of it or thought he had. Things went all right until a 
week later when Black deliberately muffed another sure strike. 
This was too much for George, who immediately gave orders to 
head for home. 

What was the use, he said, of trying to whale with a damn fool 
in your crew? 

When the "Grampus" came in to pick up her mate Black left on 
her, too, and I think everybody felt relieved including Black him- 
self. 

Other changes occurred. Gus Lief and our cook went out on the 
"Orca" from which we got a new man, Ned Arey, in exchange; and 
from the "Narwahl" came a chap named Billy Star, with the long- 
est nose I ever saw on any human. No one ever called him Billy. It 
was Billy the Jib. And now to take Black's place we hired an old 
whaleman off the "Grampus" named Joe Tuckfield, who had sailed 
with Captain Dexter a long time and wanted a shore-berth for the 
winter. 

With Joe completing the reorganization, we soon had the "Spy" 
hauled up on the beach to lie on her bilge until spring. Then, alter 
putting away all whaling gear, cutting ice for drinking water and 
making everything snug around the station, we faced the problem 
of how to amuse ourselves. 

I hadn't seen much of Mungie in weeks and decided to join his 
party again for a fall caribou hunt. Mungie wasn't so bad if taken 
in small doses. Besides, Appiyow and his wife would be along, and 
I liked Appiyow very much. We ended by including Fred Hopson, 
too. 

The caribou situation wasn't so good as the year before because 
an unusual number of wolves kept them stirred up and more on the 
alert. Of the forty-two we killed that season, two caribou stand out 
clearly in memory. Not only were they responsible for one of the 
wildest rides of my life, but it was indirectly due to them that easy- 
going Appiyow, who seldom offended a soul, got "in Dutch" with 
every woman in our outfit. 

We had killed seven animals the day before, besides wounding 



110 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

two more that traveled a long way off before dropping. Next morn- 
ing Appiyow and I left the women to haul the seven back to camp, 
and, taking one of the dog-teams ourselves, mushed ahead to bring 
in the two other "kills." 

On the way back, with Appiyow sitting on the front of the loaded 
sled, we suddenly spotted a small herd of caribou* Our dogs did, too, 
and the sight of live game put the very devil into them. Almost too 
fagged out to drag their load one moment, the next they were taking 
after that fleeing herd as if our heavy sled didn't exist. We couldn't 
slow them down. 

Yelling at me to hang on, Appiyow did likewise. There was noth- 
ing else to do, unless we wanted to lose the team. Between bumps 
the sled seemed scarcely to touch the ground. 

When it became clear that things might go on this way indefi- 
nitely, Appiyow decided the only way to stop our runaway team 
would be to bring down one of the caribou. I saw him reach back 
for his rifle, brace himself on the careening sled take aim . . . 

My next sensation was sailing through the air, to land spread- 
eagle fashion in a tangle of harness, sled, meat, Eskimo and yelp- 
ing canines. 

Appiyow had shot our lead dog. The rest had tumbled over the 
body. 

Since it was the women's job to raise and care for the dogs, and 
Appiyow had plugged the pick of the pack, he literally led a dog's 
life for days afterwards. I still consider his shot a lucky one. 

Reaching home the end of November, I took life easy for a while 
and all of us spent a good deal of time in the village akuzizhes 
where the usual dancing, eating and story-telling whiled away the 
dark days. But as the time drew near for return of the sun I felt 
a touch of the old wanderlust. 

One day early in 1888, Ounalena, headman of the village on the 
end of Point Barrow, asked me if Attungowrah, down at Tigara, 
really thought he was the strongest man in the world. 

My affirmative answer displeased Ounalena who had been 
claiming that distinction for himself. He said he only wished 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 111 

Attungowrah would meet him at Icy Cape that summer for a wres- 
tling match. He'd show him who was the champion strong man! If 
I ever visited Attungowrah again would I give him the message? 

My mind was made up on the spot. It would be fun to see how 
old Attungowrah and my other "southern" friends were getting on. 

Baby, of course, was crazy to go. I never knew him to pass up a 
chance to visit his relatives. 

By the end of January the two of us, excited as kids, were all set 
to start on the long trail when Toctoo announced that she wanted 
to go, too. 

That was all right with me, though I wondered why she seemed 
so anxious to get away all of a sudden. She had made quite a place 
for herself among the natives, and both Baby and I were proud of 
her growing popularity. 

"Of course you can come along if you want to," I answered. 
"Anything wrong?" 

She walked off a way and waited for me to join her. 

"What's wrong, Toctoo?" I repeated. 

She answered in a measured speech that must have been crystal- 
lizing in her mind for a long while. The sense of it was this : 

Now that she was a woman, all the Eskimos here expected her to 
take one of their young men for a husband. If she didn't, she'd have 
to belong to anybody who wanted her. I knew, didn't I, that this was 
the Eskimo custom? 

I nodded, considerably sobered by the realization that Baby's 
"kid sister" had certainly grown up; more so by the thought of little 
Toctoo belonging to some Eskimo buck she didn't care for. 

"Yes, I know the custom," I said, "but don't you like any of 
these young men?" 

She seemed to be turning them over in her mind, one by one. 

Then quite simply she told me that I was the only man she'd ever 
wanted. 



CHAPTER XX 

IT bowled me over. 

Whatever I may have answered at the moment remains a blank 
to this day. Certainly Toctoo's confession seemed more a casual 
statement of fact than anything requiring a reply. And because she 
acted so simple and unaffected about it, there was no sense of em- 
barrassment on either side. 

Otherwise it would be hard to imagine the three of us starting 
out after that on our long trip together as if nothing had happened. 

The summer before, Captain Smith of the "Baleana" had told,of 
grub-staking a man named John W. Kelley who was wintering at 
our old station house near Cape Lisburne. Kelley wasn't there the^ 
night we pulled in, but showed up shortly afterwards a bluff, 
level-headed prospector of middle age, with a full beard and an 
easy laugh. 

If we waited a day, he said, he'd go on to Tigara with us or al- 
most that far. Had to get supplies from a fellow near there named 
Browne who was running a whaling and supply station just this 
side of Point Hope. 

The news of another white man setting up so close to Attung- 
owrah's domain surprised me. I asked how the old boy liked com- 
petition, but got little out of Kelley except that it was "quite a 
story." 

We started early next morning and would have made Wevok, the 
settlement on Cape Lisburne, by early afternoon had not a suddfen 
bending of the ice brought near disaster. It happened while crossing 
a frozen lagoon separated from the ocean by a low sandspit. 

Baby was first to sense the danger. With a yell, he let go the 
handle-bars of the sled and instinctively ran off to one side, motion- 
ing us to spread out. Toctoo darted one way, I another. Kelley, 
glancing over his shoulder to see what was up, swung gradually in 

112 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 113 

towards the beach. I can still remember how the runners of that sled 
looked sinking through the ice just as our floundering dogs dragged 
it ashore. 

Luckily, salt-water ice will bend a lot before it breaks. Had this 
young ice been the fresh-water variety, we might have spent that 
night in the cold mud of the lagoon bottom instead of safe in a 
Wevok igloo. Then on to "Browne's place! " 

Browne himself was a strange bird. Although he treated me well 
the three days I spent with him, I couldn't help sensing from the 
first something abnormal, almost fanatical about the man. 

The third evening, while he and I were chatting about whaling, I 
happened to say that I'd be leaving next day to spend a few hours 
with my friends at Tigara. "A great old boy, Attungowrah," I 
added. "You know, when he took me whaling two years ago " 

At mention of Attungowrah, Browne had begun to swear softly, 
finally checking himself to ask, 

"Say, do me a favor?" 

"Sure, if I can. What is it?" 

"Kill that big brute for me, will you?" 

"Who A ttungowrah?" 

"I want him killed! That that " 

He couldn't pronounce the man's name without cussing, and be- 
cause of his wide vocabulary, it took quite a while to catch what he 
was getting at. It boiled down to this: 

Up to the time of Browne's arrival there never had been any- 
body in the Point Hope district with a stock of merchandise except 
the old chief himself. When Browne began cutting prices and get- 
ting the trade, Attungowrah grew very jealous. (I could well be- 
lieve that.) At first, according to Browne, there was nothing but 
words when the two came together. Finally, however, they 
"hooked." 

Wrenching clear, it seemed that Browne pulled a gun on the 
chief, but instead of shooting, hit him over the head so hard the 
revolver broke. Thereupon Attungowrah grabbed his rival, threw 
him down, and sat on him "for quite a while." 



114 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

This last was what Browne, apparently, could never forgive. I 
gathered that it was the main reason why he wanted me to kill the 
chief for him. 

Since I had come all the way from the top of the continent to pay 
Attungowrah a friendly call, the proposition was startling, to say 
the least. It worried me. Not knowing just what I might be up 
against after such talk, I decided the best thing to do would be 
to tell Kelley about it and perhaps get him to accompany me to 
the village. 

He agreed, but only after a good laugh. "Why," he said, "Browne 
makes me the same proposition every time I come for supplies. We 
all think he's crazy." 

Just the same, I felt easier to have Kelley along next day when 
I tramped once more through the familiar graveyard, then on into 
Tigara where, to my relief, Attungowrah and all his harem turned 
out to give us a great welcome. 

So far as I could see, the old boy hadn't changed a bit. He was 
the same ugly, loud-mouthed braggart on the surface. But I knew 
him well enough to understand that, as usual, this was largely for 
local consumption. It made me feel ashamed of myself for having 
entertained the slightest doubts or fears. 

After we had stuffed ourselves on every kind of food that his 
various wives could dig up, other Eskimos came crowding in to 
see me until the house was jammed. 

We only stayed a couple of hours. But before leaving, I remem- 
bered to deliver Ounalena's challenge for a wrestling match at Icy 
Cape. That really started something. 

Following a few sullen moments induced by the thought of any- 
body presuming to challenge his physical prowess, he turned to 
making fun of this upstart of a Ounalena. Then, with a shove that 
sent our visitors reeling back, the old boy cleared a space and pro- 
ceeded to demonstrate his kicking abilities in a one-man show. 

Standing in the center of the igloo, he kicked the gut window 
eight feet above with both feet at once. 

This was a trick I'd never seen done before and it made me will- 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO IIS 

ing to believe everything else he said he could do. But as yet he had 
neither accepted nor rejected the challenge. 

"You ought to give me something definite to carry back to Ouna- 
lena," I suggested. 

Going outside, he returned bearing in one hand a boulder that 
an ordinary man could have lifted with difficulty. He juggled it 
about for a while, then let it fall with a crash that shook the house. 

This, he said, was his answer. All I had to do was deliver it per- 
sonally and tell Ounalena what I had seen. If the fool still wanted 
to wrestle him at Icy Cape, the great Attungowrah would be happy 
to smash every bone in his carcass. 

I promised to deliver the message, anyhow. Probably he never 
expected me to haul that rock to Point Barrow because no further 
mention was made of it when he good-naturedly walked with Kel- 
ley and me as far as his private burying ground to see us off. 

My last glimpse of him standing there, apelike and passive, amid 
the decaying corpses of those he had murdered, made a picture 
hard to forget. 



CHAPTER XXI 

REJOINING Toctoo and Baby at "Browne's place/' we would have 
headed north early next morning except that when we went out 
after breakfast to harness the dogs, several were missing. 

All hands combed the countryside for hours, but found nothing. 
I was almost reconciled to buying new dogs at Tigara, when late 
that afternoon Baby located the missing animals in a recently- 
deserted igloo three miles down the coast. 

Who had taken them, or why, was a mystery for many weeks. 
But one day in late summer a message reached me from Kelley 
who wrote that he'd worked for Browne during spring whaling 
and thought I'd be interested in what he'd unearthed about those 
dogs. 

Did I remember the day he and I went to Tigara? Well, in our 
absence it seemed that Browne had picked a row with an Eskimo 
hailing from Cape Prince of Wales. Had even taken a pot-shot at 
the fellow but not until the Wales man had .blazed away at him 
through the doorway of the house in which the Eskimo had then 
hidden our dogs to revenge himself on Browne before heading for 
parts unknown. 

At the time, ignorant of what had gone on behind scenes, I was 
only too glad to get the dogs back and start the following day. 

We had another Eskimo along, a chap named Arkibenna. with- 
out whom I never should have found out how simple it is to change 
the weather. It was while a bad storm held us in camp just south 
of Cape Lisburne that Arkibenna came through with his astonish- 
ing recipe. He had learned it, he said, from his father, who had 
been a famous wind-doctor. 

All I had to do was to set fire to a grave, burning up the corpse 
along with the rack that held it. If there was no rack, then the dead 
man's broken sled might be used for fuel or even, on a pinch, 

116 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 117 

ordinary driftwood. 

The storm raged and time hung heavy. With nothing better to 
do, I crawled outside and prowled around to see if by any chance 
I could find a native grave such as we sometimes encountered along 
the coast. Luck was with me. About two hundred yards up a ravine 
an ancient rack loomed dimly through the storm, the body still on it. 

I finally got a fire going with the help of shavings whittled from 
driftwood, and, feeling like a fool, managed to build up a blaze that 
set the rack afire. Then, calling the Eskimos, I watched their 
faces as they gathered around the funeral pyre. None showed the 
least concern. 

I have found since that Eskimos care little what is done with the 
dead so long as their immediate family or relatives aren't tam- 
pered with. In fact, after driftwood became scarce, they were the 
first to break up native burial racks and drag them home for fire- 
wood. 

But in those days driftwood was plentiful everywhere and the 
desecration of graves so rare that my Eskimos' stolid behavior in- 
terested me more than the fact that next day happened to be fair. 
Arkibenna, of course, laid the change in weather to his magic 
recipe. Kelley and I winked at each other and let it go at that. 
1 We made Wevok, the village at Lisburne, before dark, and for- 
tunately stayed there in a native house instead of pushing on. I say 
fortunately because, despite my new power over the weather, an- 
other gale blew up before morning which lasted two days and would 
have meant a crowded snow-shelter had it caught us in the open. 

After twenty-four hours with Tatpana, our host, things got mo- 
notonous, and Kelley and I were tactless enough to start an argu- 
ment with the wizened old codger about his devil. Did he really 
believe in all that stuff? 

For a long while he tried patiently to explain matters. But the 
harder he tried, the more mixed up he became, until it was as good 
as a sideshow. And to our everlasting shame, we deliberately led 
the old man on. 

"No," Kelley would say, "I don't think he ever had a Toondrah." 



118 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

"Nor I," I'd answer with a wink. "Not one that amounted to 
much, anyhow." 

Tatpana didn't like being made fun of. All right, he said at last, 
with quiet dignity, if we'd agree not to speak or make any noise 
whatever, he'd show us how powerful his devil was. 

Tatpana's igloo was constructed like all the rest in that you en- 
tered the room through a hole in the floor directly above the .usual 
entrance tunnel. The floor boards were heavy planks three inches 
thick and hewn from spruce logs. Here is what Tatpana did that 
turned our winks into blinks. 

Inviting us to watch closely, he placed a piece of seal line around 
the first plank. Then, flanked by Kelley and me, the old man began 
slowly sawing back and forth. There wasn't a sound except our 
breathing and the almost imperceptible hiss of the soft line rub- 
bing polished wood. But as he continued, we could see the line 
move along just as if a man were cutting with a saw. Farther and 
farther it ate its way into that plank, finally passing clear through to 
the next crack. 

We bent down close, examined everything, rubbed our hands 
over the wood, looked at each other. The plank was as solid as be- 
fore. 

How he did it I never found out. Some of those old fellows were 
ventriloquists and not bad at sleight-of-hand. I suppose Tatpana 
was a hypnotist as well. 

At any rate, the rest of the way up to our old station conversa- 
tion between Kelley and me remained rather subdued. 

Leaving Kelley there putting away his new supplies, the rest of 
us pushed on until we came to the Pitmagea River where we holed 
in with a family of strange Eskimos who hadn't been there on our 
southbound trip. They acted friendly enough towards Baby and 
Toctoo and Arkibenna, but for some reason seemed none too 
pleased to give me shelter. Nevertheless, I turned in as usual, leav- 
ing orders for an early start. 

It seemed as if I hadn't been asleep any time when Toctoo awoke 
me. The sled was already packed, she said softly, and the men were 




M 
> 



o Z 

H 

S 

S M 

3 a 
SIS 



o 



w 

Q 
O 

8 

tt 

P 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 119 

waiting outside. Dragging my sleeping-skins outdoors, I saw by 
the stars that it was a lot earlier than we usually got away. 

Arkibenna, hurriedly lashing our outfit, said we might as well 
start along, as Baby would soon catch up with us. Toctoo went 
ahead of the team. I took the rear of the sled, still half asleep. As 
we moved ahead I noticed Arkibenna drop back, rifle over arm, as 
if to wait for Baby. Suddenly he disappeared. 

"Toctoo! "I called. 

She kept right on. It began to dawn on me that something ex- 
traordinary was afoot. 

We must have covered ten miles before she stopped the dogs and 
announced that here we'd wait for the other two who would be 
along in a few minutes. She built a fire and make some tea, but 
the most I could get out of her was that as soon as Baby arrived, 
he would explain everything if he eared to. 

After about two hours the pair showed up. We all had some- 
thing to eat and were ready to start again when Baby mentioned 
that the family we had stayed with were from Cape Prince of Wales. 
Since I had forgotten that the Wales tribe held a grudge against all 
whites because of the Gilley affair several years before, this didn't 
mean much. 

"Come on, Baby. Out with it!" I demanded. 

Then as we traveled along, he explained how he had overheard 
the old man telling his son that he was going to kill me during the 
night when everyone slept. Baby had passed this on to the other 
two, and.later crept cautiously outside, taking his rifle. 

Armed with my own revolver, borrowed while I slept, Arkibenna 
stood guard inside with Toctoo who had a hunting knife. As soon 
as the household fell asleep, I was hustled out and started off with 
Tcyctoo, the two men staying behind to make sure nobody fol- 
lowed us. 

I have no doubt Baby saved my life that night, as he did several 
other times when we were off together. 

But the curious part, it seemed to me, was that neither father 
nor son held it against Baby and Arkibenna for their part in "kid- 



120 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

naping" me to safety. Instead, they ended up in a sort of love 
feast during which the old man admitted quite simply that one of 
his brothers had been killed by a white man and this had seemed a 
good chance to get even, that was all. 

The fact that we didn't reach Point Barrow until early April 
was due partly to bad weather, but mostly to the many days spent 
hunting in the vicinity of Point Lay. Sixty-four caribou for our 
combined efforts! 

True, that hunt might easily have turned into a headache because 
one of my stubborn streaks all but lost us the whole sixty-four 
hides. 

It came about through our camping next to a couple of native 
families from Tigara who were on their way to Point Barrow to 
trade some very fine spotted skins they had brought* with them. 

They might better have brought their rifles instead of lazily 
depending on what little food they were carrying. For during sev- 
eral days of steady storm their grub ran out and they would have 
starved without our caribou meat which we gladly shared with 
them. But when I suggested that they take all our hides for a few 
of their spotted skins, they sat back and laughed. 

Now, I didn't so much mind being turned down. But when they 
coolly added that since I couldn't take the hides along, they'd get 
them on the return trip anyhow, that seemed a little too much. After 
all, we'd been feeding the whole lot of them for days. 

"All right," I said. "If you don't want to trade, you don't get 
the hides." 

When I picked one up and cut it to pieces, they laughed all the 
harder, thinking I must be fooling. So I grabbed another of our 
hides and slashed that into particularly small bits. Their guffaws 
petered out. By -the time I had ruined four caribou hides before 
their eyes they yelled at me to stop. 

The result was that I got four good reindeer skins in exchange 
for our remaining sixty winter skins, and felt well satisfied. Later, 
the Eskimos sold these winter skins at Tigara. This made it an ex- 
cellent bargain both ways. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 121 

On the whole, the trip had put me in fine feather, and as we hur- 
ried home along the last stretch of coastline, my one aim was to 
reach the station before spring whaling began. As far before as 
possible. I had been doing some heavy thinking all the way up. 
There was no question about it, our whaling ventures so far had 
been fiascoes. 

Now I had a brand new plan to spring on George* 



CHAPTER XXII 

IT was this. If I could get a native crew together, fit out an oomiak 
and whale Eskimo fashion, it might be worth a try. 

George was skeptical about my getting a native crew. 

"Women go whaling," I reminded him. 

"All right, Charlie/ 7 he agreed, still dubious, "go ahead and see 
what you can do." 

I wasn't too confident of gathering an all-Eskimo crew myself, 
but finally found a native, Poka, whose wife's recent death barred 
him from whaling with the other Eskimos that spring. Even Poka's 
acceptance was conditional. He'd go only if I succeeded in getting 
a full crew of Eskimos, and if I promised to do everything the 
Eskimo way. 

My next recruit was Toctoo. Then two more women agreed to 
come along. A young boy who had wandered up from Point Hope 
completed my crew. 

Poka helped skirmish an old oomiak and furnished the necessary 
devil for it a piece of obsidian chipped into the shape of a whale. 
He also dug up a dried ravenskin, which no native crew would think 
of omitting. Just before we started hauling the oomiak out over the 
ice an old man arrived post haste from the village to pour fresh 
water over the bow and recite a mumbo-jumbo, 

Our own boys stood around watching the proceedings and try- 
ing to keep their faces straight. But, bolstered by the thought that 
we couldn't do worse than they had done last year, I finally gave 
the word that headed our well-charmed craft out towards the dis- 
tant flaw. 

The next few weeks were marked mostly by false alarms which 
fooled white and native crews alike. All the old men kept repeating 
that there must be a long point of ice somewhere to the south where 

the whales were touching, then going off. Finally, one of the native 

122 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 123 

boats did sail south and returned in a week with a whole head of 
long bone. This started everyone paddling and sailing south. But 
it was too late. The whales had disappeared. 

Near the end of May a remarkable migration of small Arctic 
rodents called lemmings gave us something to think about besides 
whales. They came from the southeast, first in scattered bands, 
then solid masses. They kept coming until the whole land was black 
with them. You couldn't put your foot down without stepping on a 
lemming. 

The main body, moving seaward on a ten-mile front, took four 
days to pass the station. Nor did they stop with the land. They kept 
on over the sea ice, finally leaping into the water and swimming 
offshore until drowned. 

Cruising several miles out, our bow swished for hours through 
great masses of drowned lemmings, pushing them aside like small 
pieces of wood collected in a tide-rip. I could only wish lemmings 
and whales more evenly divided. 

Every few years, said the Eskimos, these little animals migrated 
this way, though not always in the same direction, nor at the same 
time of year. But the older people who had seen many migrations 
agreed that for vastness this one beat them all. Millions must have 
drowned. 

Yet later that summer when I happened to remark the unusual 
number of white owls and jaeger seen everywhere, I was told that 
these birds were always present when lemmings were plentiful. 
Mother Nature seemed prolific indeed except for whales. 

By the end of May most of the natives had hauled their boats 
ashore, considering the season ended. We decided to take the hint 
and quit, too. We were waiting impatiently for the dogs and sleds 
which were to come for us at ten that morning, when all at once 
the ice started moving; not much, but enough to open a small pool 
near-by. 

As there was still some time to wait for the dogs, I had the 
oomiak hauled over to thisJbole on the off-chance of shooting a seal 
to take home with us. I dia kill one there, too, almost as soon as we 



124 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

arrived, then, after pulling it out of the water, took an even slimmer 
chance and arranged the whale-guns handy. 

"What's that for?" called George across the ice. 

"You never can tell," I sang back. 

This brought grins from the Eskimos and loud laughter from the 
others who wandered over to see if I'd gone ice-crazy or what. 

"You never can tell," I repeated, foolishly, no longer conscious 
of the hunch that had prompted my action. 

What happened then was like one of those dreams where no 
sooner do you think a thing than it materializes before your eyes. 

The men had hardly returned to their boats and were still fling- 
ing back jibes when the first whale anybody had seen in days broke 
directly in front of the oomiak. There was only time to grab a handy 
whale-gun and shoot before it pitched to go under the ice. 

At the report, followed by the bomb burst, back the men came 
on the run, thinking sure I'd had an accident. I had no idea myself 
of having actually killed that whale. But with everyone running 
around and me trying excitedly to explain, Toctoo quietly peeked 
over the edge of the ice and saw some enormous flukes just beneath 
the water. Next instant a dozen hands had grabbed irons and made 
them fast in the submerged carcass. 

I had waited a long while to kill my first whale. Here it was. And 
not a bad haul for a novice! When cleaned, the bone weighed 
twenty- two hundred pounds and at the 1888 market price was 
worth about eleven thousand dollars. 

Whether or not my eleventh-hour success with a bomb-gun made 
any deep impression on the Eskimos, the spring of 1888 marked 
the last season in which many of them kept to their old whaling 
customs. After that the younger crowd began more generally to 
adopt our whaling gear, tackles, guns, bombs and all. They even 
insisted on hard bread and tea out on the ice. Tents, however, were 
not to be used for many years yet; not until we began to hire Eski- 
mos to whale regularly for the station. Then they demanded every- 
thing exactly the same as the white men. 

The second steamer to arrive that summer was the "Baleana," 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 125 

Captain Everett Smith, and while Captain Smith was a good friend 
of ours by now, the news he brought from San Francisco didn't help 
his popularity at the moment. 

Somebody, it seemed, had talked the Company into sending a 
new crowd, mostly Portuguese, up to the station. All the old hands 
but George and me were to be replaced. 

Commg just when we felt ourselves getting the hang of this whal- 
ing business, the new orders threw the boys into an uproar. 

After supper that night, George and I left them blowing off steam 
around the stove and went outside, both of us realizing that a 
serious crisis was at hand. I nodded towards the house: 

"It doesn't set so well with the boys." 

"I don't like it myself, Charlie, but what can I do?" 

"Nothing. I guess you'll have to make the best of it." 

"We've both got to." 

"Not I. I'm pulling out." 

He gave me a blank look. "You mean going home?' 9 

"I mean I'm quitting the Company," I said, "not the North." 

Much as George and I hated to part officially, he agreed that cir- 
cumstances made this a good time for me to strike out on my own 
hook if I were ever going to. 

As for staying permanently in the Arctic, that was by no means 
a spur-of-the-moment decision. All the way down to Tigara and 
back I had been thinking it over, and had made up my mind that 
since I liked it up here better than any place I'd ever cast anchor, 
the far North was the place for me. And now, as George well knew, 
there was another reason why I'd never leave. 

With the arrival of the first ship that summer, Toctoo and I had 
been married. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

MAD clean through at being dumped overboard without warning, 
there was nothing for our crowd to do except find berths on the 
different Company vessels and clear out. While this was going on, 
I called aside three of the men in whom I had learned to place great 
confidence. 

We were an assorted lot Conrad Siem a German, Patsy Grey 
an Irishman and former soldier in Arizona, Ned Arey hailing from 
Cape Cod, I from New Jersey. Yet we had much in common, too. 
We could take things as they came. 

"What do you fellows want to quit for?" I began. "Why not 
stick it out? I'm staying. Let's get an outfit together and make a 
go of it up here." 

A council of war followed. In the end we shook hands all around. 

It didn't seem so crazy after we'd figured things out. I had a 
tent; each of us a rifle, sleeping-gear and plenty of skin clothing. , 
That, as we explained to George, gave us a good start. 

So he let us have some grub and we made our way to Berinak 
in order to be handy to Point Barrow where most of the steam 
and sailing vessels were still anchored, awaiting their chance to 
whale eastward. Among all these captains, we thought, it would be 
easy to get the rest of our outfit on credit. 

Here we were over-optimistic, as I discovered after confidently 
tackling my friend Captain Smith, of the "Baleana." 

Sure he'd stake me. All I had to do was agree to go along with 
the Eskimos, live with them, whale with them in the spring then 
give him most of the bone in exchange for what outfit he'd ad- 
vance. 

The other captains, most of whom I admired personally, proved 
just as canny when it came to driving a bargain with anybody out- 
side the Company, 

126 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 127 

I tried one ship after another, both sail and steam, but always 
with the same result. "Whole hog or nothing," was their motto. 
Finally, our grub ran low and a snorting southwest blow scattered 
the fleet, sending all the sailing ships around the Point hell-bent 
for shelter. 

That gale brought our zero hour. I didn't connect it with the re- 
assuring "ill wind" proverb when, desperate, I paddled out to the 
"Baleana" two days later with Mungie and his oomiak crew for 
one last eloquent plea. 

Captain Smith must have sighed heavily at seeing our oomiak 
approach, but he was polite enough when I came aboard. After 
leading the way to his cabin, he started talking about everything 
except what he knew I 7 d come for. The storm had wrecked three of 
the "crowbills." One of them, the "Fleetwing," abandoned by her 
crew and with her back broken on a sandbar, had torn free and 
drifted east of the Point. She was there yet, probably caught in an 
eddy. The weather had been so foul that nobody wanted to monkey 
with her. Too bad, too, because he understood that everything was 
still on her except her boats and whale-guns and a few 

"You've told me all I want to know," I cut in, already halfway 
out the cabin door. 

That was how suddenly I became a pirate, as men were called in 
those days who took to the uncertain but legitimate trade of sal- 
vaging abandoned wrecks. 

My immediate job was persuading Mungie and his crew to put 
me aboard the "Fleetwing" to see what could be saved. They 
weren't too willing, but finally consented. 

The broken hulk, drifting sluggishly in rather open water some 
twelve miles offshore, wasn't so hard to reach as I'd expected. Once 
over the rail, however, we found her a mess every rope cut and 
her hold full of water. There seemed no chance of getting anything 
out unless we could beach her. To do so meant reeving wheelropes 
in order to steer, then splicing the lower fore and main topsail sheets 
and setting them. 

This took hours and called for all the skill I'd ever acquired as 



128 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

a sailor. But it got her moving inshore towards some of the sand- 
spits ten miles off Point Barrow. 

All the while she was settling lower and lower. Several times I 
thought sure we'd have to leave her. But by splicing the jib halyards 
and setting that sail, too, we coaxed her along until she finally struck 
bottom within a half-mile of the sandspit. Continuing good weather 
enabled us to boat from ship to shore the sails, pieces of rope, 
whaling-gear, junk everything loose that we could get at, includ- 
ing a barrel of black molasses winched out of the fo'castle. 

Two nights and days this work went on, never stopping until, 
thoroughly exhausted, we lay on the sand and slept. Then, loading 
the oomiak with all she'd carry, we left the rest of the stuff on the 
beach at daybreak and paddled for Berinak. 

Before the gale, the Revenue Cutter "Bear" had come north ac- 
companied by the U.S.S. "Thetis 77 which was rated a man-of-war. 
The "Thetis" had anchored below us, almost off the station, and 
when we got back with our oomiak-load of junk, we found the boys 
ready to pay a visit to the man-of-war. 

However, Con and Pat now determined to go back to the "Fleet- 
wing" instead, and see what else might be saved. At least they could 
bring home all the stuff we'd left on the sandspit. 

So Ned and I took care of the amenities. We fashioned some can- 
vas into a makeshift sail, and, using an oar for a mast, sailed down 
to the slick and polished "Thetis." As we drew near, suddenly I 
became conscious of my clothes, and the fact that I hadn't shaved 
in a week, and for once in my life felt awed in the presence of splen- 
dor. 

But a good breakfast with Captain Emory in his cabin knocked 
that out of my head. He was a fine man and greatly interested in 
what the four of us were trying to do on our own hook. When, after 
yarning with me a good part of the day, he ended by volunteering 
to let us have what he could in the way of food, I left the "Thetis" 
feeling like a millionaire. 

Up forward, Ned had fallen among friends, too, which put us 
both in such high spirits that we decided to drop in on George as 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 129 

soon as we got ashore. 

He made us stay a long time and told us over and over that he'd 
let some of his Portuguese go if we'd change our minds and join 
him again. But we felt too cocky to consider giving up our new in- 
dependence. 

Times came later when such an offer would have seemed tempt- 
ing enough. One of them occurred at Berinak next afternoon when 
Con and Pat returned from the "Fleetwing" empty-handed. 

It seemed that in our absence the rest of the captains had stripped 
the wreck of everything we'd missed. Worse, they'd stolen all the 
miscellaneous articles we'd so painfully accumulated on the sand- 
spit. 

"Th' dirty thieves!" roared Pat, elaborating with words and ex- 
pressions that somehow fell soothingly on our ears. We all felt what 
only Pat could say. 

Three days later another sou'wester the pirate's friend piled 
the small, flat-bottomed schooner "Ino" broadside on the shore 
south of Utkiavie, her masts at forty-five degrees. 

We got there to find six of her crew laid out on the beach, appar- 
ently dead; others standing about aimlessly, and a number of Es- 
kimos already rummaging the wreck. For her captain and first 
mate to be sitting on the ground calmly making their logbooks 
tally seemed a bit callous until they explained curtly that the six 
"casualties" were only drunk. Whereupon, they went ahead with 
their tallying. 

After a while I asked, "What are you going to do, Captain?" 

"What can I do?" he whined, jerking his thumb towards the 
marauding natives. "Them niggers come jumpin' aboard soon's 
we left, and they won't get off." 

"Suppose we take charge of her ourselves." 

"I don't give a damn what you do. All we want is to get aboard 
the 'Bear.' This here's my first trip to the Arctic, Mister, and I 
hope t'hell it's my last." 

Wading and splashing out to the schooner, we climbed over the 
rail and told the Eskimos to put those hatches back. They refused. 



130 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

After a lengthy powwow, during which I mentioned what might 
happen if the revenue cutter caught them stealing, they finally laid 
off and even brought back what they had taken ashore. They knew 
all about the "Bear" and her big guns. 

Just as we got everything under hatches again, the "Bear" actu- 
ally came steaming south and stopped abreast the schooner. Cap- 
tain Healy sent Lieutenant Jarvis in with word that all wanting 
to come with him were to launch one of their boats and bring noth- 
ing but a barrel of sugar. 

"We're all out of sugar/' Jarvis explained, "and have three 
wrecked crews aboard us already." 

The "Ino's" skipper didn't take long to decide what he was go- 
ing to do. "But first," he said, "I want Captain Healy to condemn 
my schooner proper and official. 9 ' 

Jarvis grinned. "Don't worry. He's condemned her already 
through his spyglass. Hurry up, whoever's coming!" 

All but the six drunks jumped at the chance, and although the 
heavy surf left us soaked to the skin, we were delighted to help 
them launch their boat. The Arctic was no place for a spineless 
crowd like that. The six drunks they left behind would be bad 
enough to have for neighbors. 

To pirate eyes the wrecked "Ino" presented a beautiful sight as 
each roller pounded her a few inches higher on the beach. We could 
hardly wait for a look inside. But first we had to get her on an even 
keel before too much sand should wash in around and hold her fast. 
The Eskimos, whose looting we had just stopped, now came around, 
eager to help us. 

About seventy-five yards from the water's edge rose a forty-foot 
bluff, and on top of it we buried a great piece of driftwood. To this 
was fastened one end of the schooner's fifteen-fathom anchor chain. 
Then we swung her cutting falls from the mainmast head, hooking 
the lower block into the other end of the chain. By leading the run- 
ning part to a block on the foremast, we brought it down to the 
windlass almost directly below. 

This took until evening. But when we had our tackle rigged and 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 131 

all hands manning the capstan bars, it was only a matter of muscle 
and long hours to right the schooner, inch by inch, until morning 
found her on an even keel. 

We were done up. Nobody thought of resting, however, before 
taking a hasty survey below. Then, grinning broadly, each man 
flopped down wherever he happened to be and slept the sleep of 
utter exhaustion. It was clear that except for some badly needed 
whale-guns nearly everything we could have wished was there. 

Later, a good cleanup of her staterooms turned the "Ino" into 
winter quarters more snug and habitable than a pirate had any 
right to expect. So, taking turns as lookout, we ate and slept and 
loafed in luxury, well aware that we wouldn't be left undisturbed 
forever. 

One afternoon during Con's watch, those of us below heard 
voices. I went up. The drunks, sobered at last, were standing 
around on the beach asking Con what th' hell an ? blazes we were 
doing aboard the "Ino" and where their comrades were. 

"They left on the 'Bear/ " I told them. "We own the Ino' now, 
and we aim to keep right on owning her." 

The second mate, a red-eyed bruiser, came over the rail last, and, 
ignoring me, started telling Con what would happen if we didn't get 
out. I joined in again. The argument was growing hot when Ned 
and Pat came up. 

Since Patsy Grey was the smallest of the crowd, the mate singled 
him out as soon as he appeared. But Pat had a tongue as nimble as 
the rest of him, and for quite a while the compliments flew fast 
both ways. Suddenly, the big mate made a lunge, Pat ducked, and 
the pair were all over the deck in no time. 

Before any of us could pry them apart, it became clear that Pat 
needed no man's help. Then, with the other crowd seemingly enjoy- 
ing the show as much as we, all hands let nature take its course. 

When Pat finally butted his bullet head into the other's belly and 
followed with a lightning wallop on the chin, the winded mate went 
down like an empty flour sack. But only for a second. Helped up by 
his own boatsteerer, a Portuguese, he rewarded the fellow with 



132 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

curses and a blow full in the face. 

That was enough for us. We gathered up the mate and heaved 
him over the side, telling him that if they needed anything he could 
send one of the men, but never again to step foot on the "Ino" him- 
self. 

"Another time/' added Pat, peering down at his late adversary 
with a blood-streaked grin, "I might lose me temper." 

Next day, leaving Pat behind for fear he'd "lose his temper," 
Con, Ned and I walked over to their camp and found them prepar- 
ing to start for Point Hope in their boat, along with several of the 
"Fleetwing's" men. They had taken plenty off the "Ino" before 
abandoning her far more than they could pack into the small 
boat. So we "inherited" what they left. 

The Portuguese owned some whale-bombs and guns that he was 
anxious to sell me for cash, but I had no money and the deal seemed 
off. As an afterthought, just when they were leaving I asked whether 
he would accept a written order on money still due me from the 
Company. He agreed, but only if someone else would endorse it. 
One of his partners accommodated on the spot. 

Weeks later, those chaps tried to reach a ship off Point Hope 
and that was the last heard of them. There were eleven in the little 
boat. 

I have always been sorry that my order was never presented for 
payment. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

WE were still making things shipshape for winter when the "Thetis" 
came in again, this time with Governor Swinef ord, the second gov- 
ernor of Alaska, and his party aboard. 

Their afternoon visit to the "Ino" was quite an event for us. 
On leaving, the Governor wanted to buy a fine wolfskin and several 
foxskins of mine, asking me to go back to the "Thetis" with him so 
he could pay me. 

"I've got a few things to do right now," I said, "but I'll be aboard 
first thing tomorrow for the money." 

"I'll be looking for you, Brower," he beamed, shaking hands 
warmly. 

Next morning, the "Thetis" was gone. So were my furs. 

I'm willing to put the blame on "circumstances over which he 
had no control," rather than any deliberate intent of the Governor 
of Alaska to do a gullible pirate out of valuable furs. But it was a 
bit disillusioning. 

Better luck arrived with the "Grampus" from the eastern whal- 
ing grounds, for on her we found our old pal, Fred Hopson. Fred 
was as anxious to join us as we were to have him back on a share- 
and-share-alike basis. I had always felt sorry we hadn't included 
Fred in the first place. 

The "Orca" anchored off the station for a few hours that same 
afternoon, and although she would be the last ship for another year 
we didn't even board her. We were sick of haggling and were pretty 
well stocked up, anyhow. 

But Captain Bouldry sent a boat ashore in charge of a Portu- 
guese officer called Red Frank, from the color of his hair, and no 
sooner had this boat hit the beach than a familiar looking seaman 
made a beeline for the "Ino." 

When the "Orca" put in earlier that summer, Bouldry had in- 

133 



134 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

sisted on dumping a lot of station supplies off on the ice and one of 
his crew had made himself very useful to George in helping us haul 
the stuff ashore. We had liked him immensely at the time, and he 
us. His name was Tom Gordon. 

Now here was Tom Gordon climbing over the "Ino's" rail to 
jenew old acquaintance. 

After we had welcomed him into the cabin, put on the coffee pot 
and "gammed" a while, Fred Hopson said, jokingly: 

"Use another good man, couldn't we, Charlie ?" 

"You bet we could," I agreed, and meant it. 

Tom's face showed that nothing would suit him better. But he 
explained that Captain Bouldry never would let him off because 
Red Frank would have nobody else for his bow oar. He'd better 
be going now, too. That damned redhead had orders not to wait . 
too long ashore. 

It was then that Pat winked all around, spit neatly into the stove 
and made a very practical suggestion. 

Twenty minutes later Red Frank came tramping up the beach 
to demand what was keeping Tom. 

Our innocent faces drove him furious. He ended by accusing us 
of hiding Tom in the hold. But when I offered to let him search the 
vessel, he refused, believing not without cause that some trick 
would be played on him in the dark. After hanging around a while, 
he flung us a few final curses and left. 

We watched the "Orca" sail at daylight, after which Pat and 
Tom crawled out from some place well inland where, bundled in 
double thicknesses of skin clothing, they had spent a cold but cheer- 
ful night. 

Before the heavy snows, another of our former crowd drifted 
in from Point Barrow. Old John Shuman said he'd just as soon stay 
in the Arctic as go outside broke. So we hired John as cook, prom- 
ising to pay him in bone if we got any in the spring. Old John proved 
a somewhat uncertain quantity, but got along well enough for a 
while. 

The other six of us worked together for three years without ever 




o 3 

S s 



a 






2 S 



< M 

n 

K w 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 135 

having a serious row. 

One reason, perhaps, was that we made each man responsible 
for the job he could do best. And since whatever was needed we had 
either to make ourselves or buy from the Eskimos, there was al- 
ways plenty to do. 

As carpenter, I agreed to boss the manufacturing end. Con be- 
came "manager" in charge of all buying. Ned's specialty was gath- 
, ering driftwood for fuel or building purposes. Pat and Tom were 
delegated to go fishing thirty miles inland, while Fred Hopson, a 
good man all around, made himself generally useful. It worked out 
fine. 

First of all, I built us some sleds from pieces of hardwood found 
in the "Ino." Ned, meanwhile, dragged home some good driftwood 
logs which he and I whipsawed into frames, then put away until 
spring when I planned to try my hand at building a couple of 
oomiaks. 

We all felt rather sorry for George at the station, knowing what 
it was costing him to stay with the Company instead of joining our 
crowd where he really belonged. When Christmas came around we. 
invited him over to the "Ino" for dinner. Reminded of old John's 
skill as a cook particularly for his famous duff towards which we 
had carefully hoarded a small bottle of brandy poor George 
jumped at the chance, and nearly wept, besides. 

A memorable occasion, that Christmas dinner! When all was 
ready, John put it on with a hearty "Help y'selves, gents! Help 
y'selves!" Then he went out to putter lovingly over the sauce for 
the duff. 

John was a real cook and we cleaned up the main part of the 
dinner in a hurry, settling back to await the grand climax. 

John finally appeared with the pudding. He started to put it on 
the table but drew back, scowling. After repeating this maneuver 
from several angles, he fixed a glassy eye on Con. 

"Can't y' see there ain't room for the duff? Take those damn 
lamps off the table! 39 

Since Christmas was the one time of year when a man could be 



136 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

forgiven for pouring brandy into himself instead of the sauce, all 
hands got a good laugh out of it including old John himself, later. 

Early in January, two native families whom I had known at Point 
Hope came up the coast and on my recommendation Con shipped 
them all to whale with us. He also hired two Eskimo men from 
Utkiavie who otherwise would be out of whaling another year be- 
cause of deaths in their immediate families. 

With things shaping up for a busy spring, I decided I might as 
well get in a month's hunting with Appiyow first. Before starting, 
however, we found that Mungie was going inland, too, and added 
his party to ours. 

That first night in camp I heard a wild commotion outside the 
shelter where the women were cooking. They all tried to pile into 
the hut at once, screaming and yelling as though a bear had raided 
the place. I grabbed a rifle and forced my way out, ready for any- 
thing, except what really had happened. A few minutes before, 
the moon was shining. Now it wasn't. The natives had seen total 
eclipses before, but still attributed them to the devil and were sure 
that if anyone stayed outside while the moon was gone something 
terrible would happen. 

Luckily, the eclipse lasted only a short time, after which the 
women peacefully resumed their cooking in the brilliant forty- 
below-zero moonlight. 

We hadn't gone many days inland before Mungie worked himself 
into his customary jealous fit, and quit camp to hunt on his own. 

It was also time for Toctoo and me to head for home. I had prom- 
ised the boys to be back the middle of March in order to start our 
oomiaks. So, on the tenth she and I set out for home with one sled- 
load, after promising Appiyow that we'd send all the dogs and sleds 
back in April to help him haul the bulk of the meat and skins. 

A strange situation confronted me at home. When I went to the 
village to hire some of the old men to prepare whalebone lashings 
for the new oomiaks, they agreed readily enough but all asked for 
flour and molasses in exchange. Even then they failed to produce 
the lashings when promised. I thought it very odd. As a rule the 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 137 

Eskimos were most punctilious in carrying out such contracts. 

Finally it developed that the two native families from Point 
Hope had secretly introduced the Utkiavie people to the fine art of 
making hooch. Now some family always had a mash of flour and 
molasses tucked away in one corner of the igloo to ferment. 

Their method of distilling was primitive but worked all too well. 
For a boiler they used a large tightly covered kettle. A twelve-gauge 
shotgun shell connected the top of this with the top of a smaller cov- 
ered kettle. From the bottom of the small kettle a rifle-barrel, ex- 
tending through a bucket of icewater, led the condensed alcohol 
into a cup, drop by drop. 

It was these potent drops of fiery liquor that delayed my whale- 
bone lashing until at last I found two old men who didn't want to 
drink. 

The rest of the village presented a grave problem. Even some of 
our own Eskimos began to show up fighting crazy and had to be 
put off the schooner. 

To keep them away from liquor until we needed them for whal- 
ing, the boys agreed with me that we immediately send as many as 
possible inland with the sleds to Appiyow. This helped a little. 

"But where did these Point Hope Eskimos learn to make it?" I 
kept asking. 

Nobody could throw light on the matter until Ned Arey recalled 
hearing them mention the name of some place far to the south. He 
hadn't understood the name, they mumbled it so. Suddenly a great 
light dawned. 

"Was it Browne's place," I asked, "at Tigara?" 

"That's it, Charlie! Browne's place." 

Thus had my former host wrecked a diabolical vengeance not 
only on his enemy, Attungowrah, and Attungowrah's people, but 
on other innocent victims several hundred miles up the coast. Had 
I faced Browne at that moment, his earnest request that I kill a 
man would have met with considerable favor. 

Only it wouldn't have been Attungowrah. 



CHAPTER XXV 

DESPITE hooch, force of habit set the whole village to overhauling 
its whaling gear in early April, as usual. I had an even bigger job 
constructing our two new oomiaks. 

The Eskimos always built theirs in specially constructed snow 
houses over thirty feet long and a few feet wider than the' boats 
themselves, and I decided we might as well do everything their 
way. 

There were plenty of kinks to the job. One of the hardest things 
was properly to lash the stem and stern "knees" of driftwood to 
the keel so that all would be in a straight line. 

With the "backbone" properly joined, another mighty particu- 
lar job was to shape the bottom from two long boards, exactly the 
same length and dovetailed into the stem and stern pieces. Only 
then could the bottom slats be lashed in place, followed by ribs 
and rails, the boat shaped to the thwarts and finally the long 
stringer pieces lashed on. This finished the framework. Or so I 
thought until one of my helpers named Acarina solemnly inserted a 
small whale-shaped obsidian charm into the frame itself as a per- 
petual form of "whale insurance." If this seemed silly, I had only to 
remind myself of the silver coin that the white man placed beneath 
the foremast of a sailing ship, or the bottle of champagne solemnly 
smashed across the bow at any "civilized" launching. 

Putting on the hide covering was a job I merely helped with now 
and then. Each boat required the skins from seven bearded seals. 
We bought these skins in the village where they had remained bur- 
ied all the previous summer until rotted enough for the hair to slip 
off easily. They were then cleaned in the snowhouse, cut to fit the 
boat and sewed together with braided sinew, employing the same 
double seam doubtless used by Eskimo women for generations. 
The women took great pains with their sewing. If any bulge or 

138 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 139 

pocket appeared after the skins were stretched over the boat- 
frames, the one responsible had to rip the seam out and do it over 
again. 

I had grown hardened to many things by now, but the smell of 
those skins while they were being worked on in the snowhouse 
nearly knocked me out. What made matters worse was the need for 
keeping the shelter extra warm with seal-oil lamps set in niches 
along the walls. I was thankful when each boat, properly covered, 
could at last be carried out and placed on racks in the sun to dry 
and bleach for future use. 

George and his men, who went whaling ahead of us, damaged 
their wooden whaleboats severely in hauling them the five miles to 
the flaw even though they had chipped an ice road most of the way. 
We had no such trouble with our light oomiaks. Besides, experience 
had taught us the foolishness of hauling boatloads of stuff around. 
About all the camp equipment we took on the ice this time was an 
old oil-tin to use as a stove. It made a hot fire with blubber fuel, 
and we could always have tea in a hurry. 

Tom, Ned and I went in one boat, and with us three Eskimo men 
and Toctoo. Her job was to keep our footgear in order and cook 
if there were any cooking to do. However, before we had been out 
two days, she had turned nurse, leading me ashore with so bad a 
case of snow-blindness that I should have been helpless without her. 
All we had to put in my eyes was sugar a treatment which made 
them smart like blazes, but it finally did the trick. 

Three days later we joined our crew just in time to help bomb 
the first whale of the year. 

My boat killed two more in the weeks that followed; our other 
crew, one. All in all, the spring of 1889 was a fine season for us. 

To be sure, an incident did occur, tragic enough in itself, but 
so unrelated to any of us personally that I always remember it with 
as much disgust as regret. 

During the cutting of our second whale a woebegone Eskimo 
wandered out on the ice to where we were working, and stood about, 
watching hungrily. His home was far inland, he said, and this was 



140 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

the first time he'd come to the coast for many years. 

"Help yourself," we told him, indicating the blubber. 

He made a dive for a piece and gulped it down faster than I'd 
ever seen an Eskimo dispose of food. 

Half an hour or so later, Pat exclaimed: "Will y ? look at the 
man now I Faith, he'll be killing himself!" 

Our guest was sitting flat on the ice with his back against the 
carcass, still bolting blubber and reaching for more. 

When next we noticed him, his eyes were glazed, his jaws mo- 
tionless. He was dead. I think he must have burst something in- 
side. 

Because fear of bad luck kept any of the natives from touching 
the body, there it sat for days alongside a great piece of blubber 
until three other strangers relatives, no doubt came and hauled 
it inland on a sled. 

After the whaling was over, we pirates began to think of more 
permanent quarters than the "Ino." She had served us well. But 
what if another winter buried her under a crush of ice? To fore- 
stall such a catastrophe, it was voted to build ourselves a house on 
top of the hill where we'd be safe under every circumstance. 

All hands spent June pulling the "Ino" apart and dragging the 
lumber to our new site. Then, somehow, Tom and I couldn't resist 
Mungie's invitation to go hunting with him and Appiyow. As a 
hunt it proved a flop. Even fishing gave out. And when hunger and 
heavy rains finally brought us home, we found that the whalers had 
arrived, giving to Utkiavie the appearance, comparatively speak- 
ing, of a lively metropolis. 

George, however, was gone. We were told that the Company 
planned to send him back next year with a new crowd of men. To 
hold the station in the meanwhile, my old comrade Woolfe had ar- 
rived with orders to get rid of the Portuguese just as George had 
been forced to dismiss our old crowd the year before. 

Two of the men, Antone Bettes and a Portuguese we called Joe, 
hadn't waited to be fired but immediately built themselves a drift- 
wood shack at Berinak and hired out to Con as carpenters. That 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 141 

was why the outside of our new house was all up by the time Tom 
and I got back. 

"And now," said Con, as I stood admiring all they'd done, "we've 
got to yank some more timbers out of the 4 Ino' to finish up in- 
side." 

Luckily, far-off New Bedford saved us that trouble. It seemed 
that the winter before, some New Bedford whaling owners had 
pushed.a bill through Washington providing for a House of Refuge 
at Point Barrow to harbor shipwrecked sailors. Even then carpen- 
ters from several of the ships were assembling the new building. 
After they had finished, considerable lumber remained and we 
traded foxskins for some of it to finish our house with enough left 
over for me to build a separate room for Toctoo and myself. For the 
first time in my life I felt like a family man. 

After the ships had left that fall, Toctoo and I went hunting in- 
land with Appiyow as far as the mountains. Caribou were scarce. 
Still, we were having a fine time when Appiyow suddenly decided 
to go back to the village on the excuse of killing a few seals. It 
wasn't like Appiyow to give up so easily, and we wondered a little 
as we watched him go. Certainly I didn't suspect that in all the 
years to come, he and I would never go hunting together again. 

Toctoo and I followed his trail in a leisurely way to where the 
Eshooktoo River empties into the Kooloogarua. This was a great 
place to fish through the ice and hunt ptarmigan, and here we en- 
countered a young Eskimo named Takpuc who had just taken a 
wife. As both seemed anxious to have us stay, we camped with them 
for some time. 

At first there was another native husband and wife there. The 
woman had given birth to a child just before we arrived but the 
baby hadn't lived. Very likely it had been put out in the cold to 
die. This was often done by Eskimos in those days; particularly, 
by inland natives who were usually following the caribou and 
couldn't be bothered by any hindrance to their travel. Some women 
with whom I have talked told me that they had had as many as five 
babies and never saved any. It wasn't that they weren't fond of 



142 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

children, or that most of the mothers didn't want to keep their 
newly-born. But custom was too strong. 

So far as we could tell, the woman at Takpuc's camp was getting 
along all right and needed only to rest a while longer for complete 
recovery. But her husband, a surly fellow, was anxious to get into 
the village to make hooch and insisted on her coming along. 

It seemed there was a superstition among them that, after child- 
birth, a woman must not travel on any river. If she so much as 
touched ice, all fish left. Now, this fellow might easily have put 
his wife on a sled and taken her across country to Utkiavie. But 
since the going was easier for him on the river, he forced her to 
walk along the bank while he traveled comfortably on the smooth 
river ice. 

At the end of the first day, she was all in. Next day she struggled 
on till noon,' then had to stop. Though considerably hurt by her be- 
havior, he thought that now perhaps he might carry her the rest of 
the way to Utkiavie on his sled particularly since there were no 
more rivers for him to travel on. 

They reached the village, but two days later the woman died. 
I was told that the devil-doctors held a solemn consultation and all 
agreed that somewhere on the trip she must have touched her foot 
to the ice when her man wasn't looking. Not often, they pointed 
out, did a woman die just from having a baby. 

Luckily, Toctoo and I knew nothing of this denouement, so we 
continued to have a fine time, even planning to stay on until the 
days grew too short to hunt to any advantage. But since we were 
out of several things it was necessary first to take a few days for 
a trip to Utkiavie and back. 

The village was not so nice as in other winters. Almost everyone 
was making hooch. What hurt me most was to discover why Appi- 
yow had been so eager to get back. He may have done a little seal 
hunting, for all I knew. But when I saw him, he was far busier 
running a still of his own and getting rid of what wealth he had laid 
by for several years. Incidentally, Appiyow went on making 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 143 

whiskey, gradually losing all the prestige he had among his own 
people. 

I have kept a diary for years, and many years have passed since 
these events. Glancing back at my entry for October 9, 1927, 1 am 
reminded that on that date we buried poor Appiyow; that he died 
right here in our hospital at Barrow from the effects of a rupture 
acquired in the days when the hooch mills ran full blast. 

Also, that at his death he was a deacon in the church. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

"WHAT'S that? Listen 1" 

Toctoo and I were mushing back to the coast after returning 
to Takpuc's peaceful camp for a few more weeks' fishing. Over- 
taken by inky blackness at the end of a short December day's 
travel, we had hastily thrown up a snow shelter in the dark and 
crawled inside. 

There it came again above the howl of the west wind a deep, 
ominous rumbling that seemed to shake the frozen universe. 

"What is it?" I repeated. 

In those days my ignorance brought many a teasing laugh from 
Toctoo. But now her voice sounded quite solemn as she explained 
that it was the ice crushing offshore. 

It was my turn to laugh. We were many miles from the coast. 

But Toctoo was right. On reaching Utkiavie a couple of days 
later the first thing we saw was a great ridge of ice piled up all 
along the shore, with what was left of the old "Ino" smashed and 
twisted and buried beneath the crush. If we hadn't built our house 
on a hill ... 1 

Even the fifty-foot bluff on which the village stood couldn't al- 
ways be depended on for safety, according to Mungie. A few years 
before I came among them, a strong west wind, coupled with just 
the right current, had forced heavy ice almost to the beach; and 
this in turn pushed the thinner inshore ice onto the very top of the 
bluff right into the village. Several houses near the edge were 
crushed with everyone inside. It had all happened in the middle of 
the night. 

Mungie scanned the Arctic horizon a moment, thoughtfully, as if 
recalling the vivid details. Then he added that his father had been 
among those killed. 

Conscience got the better of me in the spring of 1890, and for 

144 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 145 

once I attended to repairs and outfitting instead of going off hunt- 
ing. In a way, it might have been a lot better had I spent my time 
hunting and so added a little more meat to the small number of 
caribou being killed by the natives. Few even took the trouble to 
try. It was more fun staying home and making hooch. 

Con finally got them to sell us four carcasses, but all they would 
accept in pay was more flour and molasses for replenishing their 
stills. 

Whaling went no better. The ice was terrible. Although Woolfe 
had fitted out two whaleboats and had Portuguese Joe and our 
former shipmate, Charlie Ice, with him, his crews were mostly in- 
land Eskimos who knew little about whaling. He had even shipped 
a good-for-nothing native woman who had run away from her last 
husband in Nubook and was now living with Joe. 

Between hooch, inland natives and dangerous ice conditions, it 
was left to Pat and Fred to take the only whale killed that year. 

Their boat lay on a ridge of ice which started to move, leaving 
holes along the edge. Suddenly, a whale broke water and lay spout- 
ing right in front of them. Pat was asleep in the bow. When shaken 
by Fred, he grabbed his second bomb-gun without harpoon or line 
and, still half asleep, darted it out as far as he could. The gun hit 
the water and slid along until the end of the rod touched the whale's 
side. Next instant the exploding bomb turned the animal belly-up. 

This happened in the middle of May. Towards the end of the 
month the season closed on a note somberly attuned to that 
wretched season. It concerned Joe's woman. 

She had been telling Joe for some time that soon she would have 
to go back to her other man at Nubook. And Joe had been urging 
her to. I don't think he ever cared much for her in the first place. 
But with a job in hand, she refused to leave until the whaling ended 
and Woolfe paid her off. 

That was the situation at the end of May when she and Joe 
started to walk ashore from the boat. 

Halfway in, they sat down to rest on a sled that someone had left 
in the ice roadway. They were sitting there talking, according to 



146 s FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 
the woman, when the Eskimo came along with whom she had lived 
at Nubook before meeting Joe. But instead of showing anger at 
finding them together, he acted friendly enough, and at Joe's invi- 
tation sat down on the sled with them to talk things over. 

"Sure, take her," Joe told him, "only you'd better wait 'til all 
the boats are in. Then she'll have a payday and you two can go back 
and start over again." 

This seemed to suit the Eskimo fine. So pretty soon Joe got up 
and started for home, leaving the pair seated there together. 

The woman said he hadn't gone more than fifty feet when sud- 
denly her man hauled his rifle out of its sack and shot Joe through 
the small of the back. He must have died instantly. To make sure, 
though, the native walked up close and shot him again, this time 
through the head. 

Leaving the body sprawled out in a pool of crimson slush, the 
man and woman walked on into the village where she told some 
of the Eskimos what had happened. Apparently, nobody laid a hand 
on the man. He just took his sled and two dogs and headed inland. 

Our party knew nothing of all this until Mungie sent a young 
man out on the ice to tell us. Con then sledded the body ashore, 
and before long every white man in the place was making for the 
station. 

What we had long dreaded but never discussed had come at last 
an Eskimo killing a white man. Had it been Eskimo against Es- 
kimo we could have left it to the natives to settle. This was far 
more serious. Nobody knew whether the Eskimos would back us 
up in punishing the murderer, or stand together against us. 

After we bad thrashed it out a while, getting nowhere fast, the 
need for a prompt decision of some sort was brought home to me 
by a glance through the window. Half of Utkiavie, it appeared, was 
milling around outside waiting to see what the white men would do. 

"Way I look at it," I said, getting the floor at last, "this is the 
time for a firm hand. I don't know how they're going to take it, but 
I do know what they're going to think of us if we let this murderer 
get away with it." 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 147 

There were nods all around. Woolfe summed it up: 

"Aye, the man must be punished proper." 

We called in Mungie and the other headman, Angaroo, and an- 
nounced that we were going to arrest the Eskimo, and if he were 
guilty, as the woman said, he must be executed. 

They showed no surprise. At the same time they refused to help, 
pointing out that the dead man wasn't one of their kind. 

The murderer had been gone a couple of hours by now, but one 
of the old women said that no man could travel fast in the soft snow 
with only two dogs. She even hinted that he might be found not far 
from the village, waiting to see what would happen. 

It fell to Con, Pat and me to go out for him. The trail led three 
miles beyond the village. And there, as the woman had said, we 
found our man waiting. He was standing behind hi? sled in a gully, 
rifle over arm. 

At sight of us, he threw a cartridge in the chamber. When we 
kept on walking steadily nearer he took to covering first one then 
another, unable to make up his mind which of us to shoot first. 

Nobody spoke. Those last twenty-five feet were the most un- 
pleasant I ever walked. 

With his rifle pointing straight at the pit of my stomach, the 
man made just one mistake. He waited an instant too long before 
shifting it to Pat who was closest to the sled. For in that split- 
second, Pat vaulted over, knocked the gun in the air and grabbed 
his man. 

Con and I soon had him down and, lashing his hands behind him, 
we headed back to the station where the rest of our crowd were 
watching anxiously. Every Eskimo had left. 

Believing that all the natives should be on hand for the trial, we 
sent word to the village. Only Mungie and Angaroo and a few of 
the older men showed up. However, they brought the woman along 
as witness and listened stolidly while she repeated what had hap- 
pened on the road coming in. 

She said that after the shooting she had gone with the man be- 
cause he would have killed her if she hadn't. Beyond readily agree- 



148 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

ing with everything she said, the prisoner had nothing to add ex- 
cept that if we let him go he would never kill another white man. 

We found him guilty. The sentence was death. 

It was not a popular verdict among the Eskimos, their point be- 
ing that there would have been no killing except for the woman. 

But at last Angaroo reminded them that had the victim been 
an Eskimo some other Eskimo would certainly kill the murderer 
and maybe his whole family. Therefore, it was right for him to die. 
He did think, however, that since the woman had caused it all, she 
also should be shot. This last, of course, we wouldn't consider. 

Although all of us were hoping that the natives would at least 
agree to carry out the actual execution, they absolutely refused. 
So that, too, was left for us. 

Old John loaded four rifles with ball cartridges, the others with 
blanks. Nobody knew which was which. Then we took the native 
half a mile inland and shot him. One official touch remained for 
Mungie. As headman, he made the woman wrap the body in deer- 
skin and leave it where it lay. 

We buried Portuguese Joe over the hill not far from the station 
the first white man I every helped bury at Point Barrow. Later 
that summer the woman went away in one of the whalers and we 
didn't see her again. 

When the "Bear" arrived, Woolfe handed Captain Healy a writ- 
ten report setting forth all the circumstances of the murder. It was 
a meticulous, long-worked-over document which we hoped would en- 
able the authorities to justify our action as clearly as we did our- 
selves. The result was somewhat different from what we had ex- 
pected. 

Said Healy, severely: "I don't want your damn report, Woolfe." 

"But, Captain, it explains " 

"You men had a perfect right to shoot that fellow on sight." 

And tearing up the report, Captain Healy tossed the pieces over- 
board. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

THE squirt of a grapefruit is more predictable than were the ways 
of the old Pacific Steam Whaling Company. I should have learned 
that much by the summer of 189L But it certainly surprised me 
to have a new man arrive to relieve Woolfe at the station in place 
of George Leavitt whom we all had expected back. And when I 
made out the new man's identity I nearly fell over. It was John W. 
Kelley. 

Next to George, however, I couldn't have asked for a better 
whaling rival than the hearty, hard-headed prospector whom I had 
left down at Corwin Bluff unloading his supplies after our social 
call on Attungowrah. 

Kelley had brought several Portuguese along for boat-headers 
but was depending for his crews on a lot of Point Hope natives 
who had come north to work for him at the Company station. 

Most of them I knew, and the first thing they told me, clustering 
excitedly about, was of a great feud at Tigara. 

Trouble started, they explained, during the recent spring whal- 
ing when the wife of Ouloucharoy, one of Attungowrah's sons, 
broke an ancient taboo. 

For many generations it had been a strict whaling custom among 
the Eskimos that should a woman refuse to go ashore during men- 
struation, she must be severely beaten. If by any chance she hap- 
pened to urinate while out on the ice, her punishment was death. 

This last was what Ouloucharoy's luckless wife had been seen 
to do as she made her way ashore from the boat. When it was re- 
ported to her husband he immediately followed her in, and with the 
full approval of all the devil-doctors, beat her until she died. Ordi- 
narily, the matter would have ended there. 

But the woman belonged to a warlike tribe below Cape Thomp- 
son, and when her brothers learned what had happened, they hur- 

149 



ISO FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

ried north looking for the murderer. For some time Ouloucharoy 
managed to avoid them. Then one day they caught him off his 
guard and shot him dead and the feud was on. First one side, then 
the other, killed somebody every few days until the dead numbered 
an even dozen. Knowing Attungowrah as I did, I could visualize 
the old boy with the charmed life strutting about in all his glory 
amidst the slaughter. 

But the long, insidious reach of "Browne's Place" had touched 
him at last. For, with the arrival of the ships he proceeded to let 
himself get good and drunk, and sleeping it off in an igloo with the 
gut window foolishly left uncovered, he, too, received a mysterious 
bullet which hurt him so badly that he couldn't move. 

This was the moment for one of his wives to square accounts for 
long years of mistreatment. She had come originally from below 
Cape Thompson herself and so was on that side of the feud. Armed 
with her colura, a woman's knife fashioned from a saw-blade and 
shaped like an old-style chopping knife, she crept up close, paused 
an instant to make sure the old man was helpless, then jabbed the 
sharp point well into his brain. 

It was hard for me to realize that Attungowrah was really dead, 
Attungowrah, the most brutish human I ever met! A man who at 
one time would have added me to his other victims without second 
thought! And beneath all his bluster, a craven bully! Could any- 
body command less admiration? 

Just why a mist should have come over my eyes as I learned of 
his grizzly end is something I have never quite reasoned out my- 
self. 

John Shuman, our cook, was getting old and quite useless. At 
his request we shipped him out with Captain Smith on the "Ba- 
leana" and began looking about for another cook no easy find, 
eleven hundred miles from the Pole. 

Last to leave that fall was the schooner "Alton." Finally her 
skipper, a man named Newth, admitted that he had a Dane among 
Ms crew who was a good cook but too cantankerous to live with, 

"He might do better ashore," I suggested eagerly. "Would you 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 151 

let him go?" 

Newth's laugh sounded like cracked china. "If Big George fig- 
ured I wanted to get rid of him, he just wouldn't go, that's the 
devil of it." 

"But " 

"Listen! Here's an idea! Suppose you sort of coaxed him to 
run away " He ended by winking one eye. 

Pretty soon Newth arranged for Tom and me to look the fellow 
over in private. Big George talked all right, but was certain the 
captain was too mean to let him go. That was where we got in our 
fine work, pointing out that here was his chance to get even with 
the skipper by running away. Since the "Alton" was to leave early 
next morning, there would be no time for a search. 

As the plan unfolded, Big George's eyes gleamed at the thought 
of so clever a revenge. He could hardly wait for darkness. 

That night at nine we paddled out according to schedule, tied 
up at the forerigging and went aft in order to allow Big George 
plenty of time. After spending an hilarious hour or so helping Cap- 
tain Newth and his officers celebrate getting rid of their trouble- 
some cook, we said goodbye to all hands and strolled leisurely 
forward. The "runaway" was hiding in our boat and came ashore 
with us, glancing stealthily behind and thoroughly enjoying the 
thrill of putting one over on the skipper. 

Somewhat to our surprise, we liked Big George fine as a cook, 
despite his strange allergy to shoes. He never wore them in the 
house, and seldom outside. His enormous feet seemed impervious 
to any treatment, however harsh. Their soles must have been cal- 
loused a half-inch thick. 

I never think of Big George today without recalling my surprise 
at finding him calmly repairing the smoke-pipe while standing 
barefooted on the red-hot stove. 

He worked for us until spring, then went with Kelley and was 
responsible for killing seven of the twelve whales taken by Kelley's 
men that season. 

Kelley was setting a new fashion in whaling at Point Barrow. 



152 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Instead of hauling his boats out to the flaw light, each was heavily 
loaded with tent, stove, food and everything to allow its crew to 
live comfortably on the ice. They didn't even have to come ashore 
to dry their clothing. Also, the women of his outfit ran sleds out 
and back every day, bringing whatever else might be needed. The 
fact that all hands could tend constantly to business was the main 
reason for Kelley's twelve whales. 

With a far smaller number of boats, Tom and I took five our- 
selves, which wasn't doing so badly. But the Eskimos, who still 
clung to many of their ancient whaling methods, caught only one 
whale between them all. 

That demonstration, I think, did more than years of argument 
to bring them over to the white man's way of doing things. 

After we had cleaned all our bone, Con, Fred, Patsy and Ned 
felt so wealthy that they thought the time ripe for a grand blowout 
at San Francisco, and urged Tom and me to join them. 

But whether prompted by caution or greed perhaps both 
we decided to stay one more year. After that, we said and shook 
hands on it we, too, would be ready to go outside for a little fun. 
Finally, a friendly deal was cooked up around the stove, in which 
the four "playboys" sold us their entire interest in the station. No 
red tape was involved. We merely adjourned to the storehouse and 
divided our bone and furs equally, agreed on a fair value for boats 
and house, paid the others their share (in bone) and found our- 
selves with a nice little nest-egg left. 

In spite of Kelley and his crowd, I can't say that Tom and I 
didn't feel a bit lonely after the "Bear' 3 gave our boys passage 
home. But there was little time for nostalgic musing. Fate, in the 
form of slush ice, was already preparing our return to piracy. 

Whaling had been good around the Point all summer and four 
of the steamers stayed later than I had ever known them. One 
October night, as they nosed single file through a snowstorm to 
anchor under Point Barrow, their course was obstructed by streaks 
of slush ice which called for bursts of speed to smash through. 

Spotting one such patch ahead, Captain Sherman of the "William 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 153 

Lewis 77 rang for full speed as usual, and a moment later piled his 
vessel high on a snow-covered sandspit that had looked exactly like 
slush ice in the dark. Luckily, the others stopped and backed in 
time. The "William Lewis/ 3 abandoned, was left to anybody who 
would salvage her. 

By the time Tom and I got there, the Point Barrow natives had 
cleaned out everything easily removed. But by hiring a number 
of them to work for us, we saved ten casks of hard bread, one of 
fresh cabbage, several sacks of potatoes and onions, besides cloth- 
ing from the ship's slop-chest and a lot of whaling spades. 

Then we unbent her sails, and cut the rigging on the high side 
to get her spars for boat-building lumber. A man was stationed at 
the foot of each mast, axe in hand. At a signal they began chopping. 
Finally, down went the masts over the side, all at once. What a 
mess ! But well worth the trouble. 

That misleading patch of "slush ice" seen through a blizzard 
put Tom and me on Easy Street until the new year turned us from 
piracy to the more prosaic job of building new oomiaks for the 
whaling season. 

While prowling around the village in search of someone sober 
enough to make our whalebone lashings, I came across a very old 
man placidly knitting himself a whalebone fishnet. He had been 
knitting on it for two years already. Since he planned to make the 
net twenty fathoms long when finished, I was sure that he'd keep 
right on knitting until he died. Yet I wanted that net as a curio. 
Would he sell it? 

No. In summer, he said, it would look like grass in the water 
and undoubtedly catch him a lot of fish. 

Without reminding him that he'd probably be dead long before 
those fish, I dropped the matter. Whereupon he agreed to sell me 
the net after all, but warned that he couldn't promise when it 
would be done. 

Two years later, after I had forgotten the whole incident, he 
brought me the completed net as a matter of ordinary business 
procedure, having worked on it constantly ever since* 



154 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

A great one to babble about the old days, he once described a 
whalebone bow the natives used to make for the sole purpose of 
assassinating an enemy. It had to be short enough to conceal under 
the attiga. The arrow, too, was short, and tipped with an extra sharp 
flint point. This kind of bone bow, he declared, could be made 
powerful enough to drive the arrow almost through a man's body. 

I professed polite surprise, but kept my mental reservations to 
myself. 

While breaking into an ancient, isolated icehouse only a few 
years ago, I was startled to find myself staring at the well-preserved 
body of a seated man dressed in curious loonskin clothing. How 
many generations he had been sitting in his Arctic tomb was any- 
one's guess. 

All at once my old net-maker's crazy yarns came to mind. For 
sticking out of this corpse right above the heart was the end of a 
short, flint-tipped arrow that must have been driven at close quar- 
ters by a particularly powerful bow. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

TOM and I had meant It. One more spring up here would satisfy us 
for a while. Of this we felt certain. So we approached the coming 
1892 whaling with the firm determination of taking a year's vaca- 
tion afterwards. 

There was a time right at the start when it seemed we'd stayed 
too long already. Everything went against us, including the 
weather. Thirty-five below zero would have made whaling from 
open boats almost an impossibility had there been any whales to 
chase. Even after things started, the Eskimos got the jump on us, 
taking three big ones before we saw a spout, 

But early in May our luck changed. By the time the short season 
closed, we had taken five between us, with a gross bone value of 
slightly over forty thousand dollars. 

Spurred on by all this sudden success, Tom and I now decided 
that we wanted one more year. If that proved equally good, then 
we'd go outside for a rest, perhaps to organize a company of our 
own for accomplishing still bigger things. So far as we could see, 
there wasn't an obstacle in sight. But we didn't understand "big 
business." 

I'm afraid our heads were just a little in the clouds when we 
boarded the first incoming Company ship that summer for the 
routine purpose of buying necessary supplies for another year. 
No longer beggars asking credit of canny skippers, we could now 
pay even the outrageous prices they were pretty sure to ask. 

We came ashore from that first ship empty-handed and slightly 
puzzled but not at all discouraged. It just happened they were 
short of what we wanted, that was all. Probably the "Orca," they 
suggested politely, could fit us out. 

We tackled the "Orca." Same result. 

As the other Company ships arrived and the Pacific Steam 

155 



156 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Whaling Company controlled the trade in those days I took to 
boarding them in succession, each time coming away more puzzled 
than before. Only after an eye-opening interview with one captain 
franker than the rest did it begin to dawn on me what we were up 
against in trying to keep on another year. 

"Make a deal?" asked Tom, hopefully, as I came dragging in. 

I answered dully: "You know what the Company has gone and 
done, Tom? Black-listed us! That's what they've done!" 

Fearful that we'd cut into their own whaling under Kelley, they'd 
given each captain specific orders to refuse to sell us so much as a 
bomb. It ended our cherished plans for one more easy, profitable 
season. 

Cooling off, I couldn't believe that Kelley himself had anything 
to do with it, much less that he would work actively against us. 
Kelley wasn't that sort. But Tom shook his head. And I will admit 
that the first visit Kelley paid us after the ships had left for the 
east went far to warrant Tom's suspicions. 

His Company, said Kelley, wanted to buy us out and had au- 
thorized him to make a deal. 

"What'll they pay?" I asked icily, after a pause. 

Kelley cleared his throat. "Five hundred dollars." 

Tom, whose home was in Scotland, hit the ceiling. I laughed my- 
self. Even Kelley grinned. But on leaving, he added, significantly, 
that he wanted to do us a good turn if he could. 

"A hell of a good turn that is! " roared Tom, when we were alone. 
"Five hundred dollars 1 " 

When Kelley returned next morning and raised his offer to a 
thousand, Tom's brows went up a notch but we both refused. The 
following day he dropped in again. Fifteen hundred this time. 

We sat tight with an effort. Except for the valuable bone which 
would still belong to us, we didn't have seven hundred dollars' worth 
of stuff in the place. 

Kelley's calls continued for several days more, each bringing a 
raise of five hundred dollars. It was a ridiculous performance. 
When his price touched thirty-five hundred, Tom and I both yelled 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 157 

our acceptance before he could possibly back out. 

Reassurance of my faith in Kelley's friendship was nearly as 
heartening as the draft on the Company that he handed Tom and 
me before Captain Healy of the "Bear 77 took us south. 

Many days later the familiar contour of San Francisco loomed 
up through the early morning mist. We piled ashore and made for 
the office of the Pacific Steam Whaling Company to present Kelley's 
draft and try to sell them our bone, as well. Thanks to careful dry- 
ing, it hadn't shrunk the usual ten percent during the long passage 
south and so should be a fine buy. 

Our draft they cashed promptly but sale of the bone was some- 
thing else. Unfortunately, Captain Knowles, head of the firm, had 
gone to New York and Ned Griffith who was in charge refused to 
commit himself. 

The uncertainty kept us fuming around 'Frisco until Knowles 
got back and agreed to take all our bone at near the market price. 

Flush for the first time in our lives, and with no immediate prob- 
lems ahead, the sale left us with a let-down feeling hard to describe. 
Life would have flattened out completely except that each was busy 
planning- a long visit home before again tackling the thrills and 
uncertainties of the Far North. 

And so a few days after pocketing our cash we headed east. I 
had written my family to get the fatted calf ready, but Tom, with 
a continent and an ocean to cross, preferred to surprise his folks. 

That trip back home was something I have never regretted. My 
father wasn't in very good circumstances or health, and although 
still working as station agent for the railroad, expected soon to be 
replaced by a younger man. On top of this worry he was trying to 
sell a new house, hardly finished, so that he and mother could live 
in a smaller place. 

I couldn't have shown up at a more critical moment. And what 
fun I had paying all he owed on the new house, furnishing a smaller, 
cozier one to suit them and moving them in! Then I paid off a 
bothersome mortgage on some other property he owned. This, with 
his Civil War pension and what he could make as Justice of the 



1S8 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Peace, would give him enough to live on comfortably the rest of 
his life. 

A far cry, indeed, from the bleak ice-pack off Point Barrow to 
the comforts of a snug house in New Jersey! 

But the fact that one had made the other possible seemed some- 
how to justify my return to the top of the world where Toctoo 
would be waiting. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

ON the tenth of June, 1893 ? the little schooner "Jennie Wand" 
tacked out through the Golden Gate and squared away towards 
the northwest horizon. The fact that she had been leased by the 
newly formed Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Company, so 
named from the promontory on which Utkiavie stood, requires a 
word of explanation. 

When I joined Tom Gordon in California after his return from 
his surprise visit to Scotland, we tried hard to get the old Pacific 
Whaling outfit to back us in a new whaling venture. Perhaps it 
was as well the deal fell through for want of an adequate guarantee 
because we made a far better tie-up with H. Liebes and Company, 
the largest furriers on the coast. 

At first, Mr. Liebes, as cautious as he was generous, hesitated to 
go in with Tom and me. But when he discovered that, unlike most 
promoters, we actually wanted to put in our own money along with 
his, he hit the desk a sledge-hammer blow and exploded: 

"Done! Charter a schooner, boys, and get up there soon's you 
can." 

That was the way I liked to do business. 

So here we were, Tom and I, aboard our own schooner properly 
outfitted for once, with Mr. Liebes in 'Frisco to dispose of what we 
shipped out and at our side Conrad Siem who, wandering about 
the waterfront, had jumped at the chance to come along and work 
for the new company. 

In time the "Jennie Wand" anchored off Utkiavie where every- 
body was glad to see us again. All hands landed our stuff on the 
ice, later helping erect first our important storehouse, then the 
main building containing living quarters, store, workshop and 
kitchen. For the new station we had chosen a handy spot a half- 
mile north of Kelley's, 

159 



160 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

One of the few things we still lacked was a team of dogs. Con, 
who loved trading, thought he could buy six good ones from some 
inland Eskimos then at Utkiavie. Only he said we must let him take 
his time if we wanted a bargain. He took so much time that Tom 
and I got worried. 

"Lots of time, Charlie," he insisted. "Just leave it to me/' 
One day we heard that the natives were leaving that same night 
for up the rivers, so at last Con sent word for them to bring over 
any good dogs they wanted to sell. 

One fellow arrived with a fine looking animal. Con bought it, 
and giving the Eskimo a chain told him to tie the dog to some lum- 
ber. Other natives followed suit. Presently we had six dogs tied, 
and Con came beaming. 

"That's the way to get a bargain. If I'd gone at 'em sooner they'd 
have held me up, see? I know natives." 

Yes, we admitted, Con was a shrewd trader. They seemed ex- 
cellent dogs, all six of them. 

After the inland people had left, Tom and I thought we'd look 
the team over and walked across to the lumber pile. 

There were six dogs, all right and not one worth the price of a 
bullet to kfll it. We yelled for Con. 

When our expert trader saw that the Eskimos had skillfully 
switched dogs on him just before leaving, his face was worth more 
than what the deal cost the Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading 
Company. 

With all the good-natured kidding, we made a merry crew. I 
should have felt supremely happy except for the absence of Toe- 
too, who had been staying inland with one of her younger brothers. 
When word finally reached her of my arrival and she came hurry- 
ing down the river to join me, bringing our baby and a boatload of 
dried fish, my home-coming was complete. 

Why she had gone inland instead of remaining with Baby and 
his family at Utkiavie wasn't quite clear at first. Then I was told 
that, like many of the villagers, even Baby was full now whenever 
he could get hold of hooch. This was just as long as the trading 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 161 

schooners were here and the "Bear" somewhere else. Apparently 
hooch had a firmer-than-ever grip on Utkiavie. Three Eskimos 
had been murdered the year before, all on account of liquor. 

It was partly to have a long talk with Baby that I took him to 
Wainwright in November to buy skins for the six boats that Tom 
and I planned to run in the spring. Loyal and lovable as ever, he 
seemed to appreciate my arguments and promised never to touch 
hooch again. 

Halfway to Wainwright we met a team coming from Port Clar- 
ence. Though strangers to me, Baby made a great fuss over them, 
explaining that they were friends of his father's. I was glad to know 
that they were to be at Utkiavie. Perhaps, with their help, I could 
keep Baby straight. 

We got back shortly before Christmas. Two days later he beat 
up a couple of village Eskimos so badly that they couldn't see. This 
was followed by another drunken spree in which he was joined by 
one of his father's good friends from Port Clarence. It ended during 
the night with Baby nearly killing the fellow. 

But Baby's number was up. When he left, the Port Clarence 
man silently trailed him, rifle in hand. Just as they reached the last 
house in the village he shot Baby through both legs and hurried 
away, leaving him lying helpless on the path. Then, one of the pair 
that Baby had thrashed a while before came running up. After 
stabbing Baby through the heart, he tied a rope around his neck 
and dragged him some distance off the path. 

I knew nothing of all this until somebody reported finding Baby's 
body just after daylight. An hour later his family silently sledded 
their dead son and brother over to our station, where all stood about 
with expressions that boded no good for anyone concerned. Baby's 
youngest brother swore to kill the Port Clarence man who had 
done the shooting. 

When the old fellow heard that this young man was out to get 
him, he sent word that if the boy ever made a move he'd kill him 
on sight. It looked as if we were in for a feud like the one at Tigara 
something I determined to prevent if humanly possible. Finally, 



162 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

I got hold of the kid brother and backed him into a corner, 

"Now, listen/ 7 1 soothed, "Baby was a good friend of mine, too. 
His sister is my wife. Just the same, he brought this on himself. 
What good will any more killings do?" 

Leaving the boy smoldering, I hunted up the Port Clarence man 
and read the riot act to him until he finally promised to pay Baby's 
mother what he considered a fair compensation for his part in the 
trouble. More important, he also agreed to quit Utkiavie before 
the youngster could do him harm. I was ashamed to carry the man's 
offer back to Baby's mother astonished when she accepted it 
promptly. One new sled and jour dogs! But it was the best I 
could do. 

Not until we came to bury Baby a half-mile back from the sta- 
tion did I realize the full extent of his popularity along the coast. 
All of Kelley's natives, as well as those working for us, showed up 
to help. The proper ceremony, they insisted, would be to leave the 
coffined body on the ground beneath an immense pile of laboriously 
gathered driftwood. 

So that was the end of Baby a mighty fine fellow when sober, 
a loyal friend to me at all times. 

Luckily, the Port Clarence man had cleared out as promised. I 
never saw him again, for the next summer he and his two sons were 
killed somewhere to the south. The identity of their assassin was 
to remain a mystery for two more years. Then one of our own vil- 
lagers, a distant relative of Baby's, became blind, and in that con- 
dition suddenly confessed that it was he who had polished off 
the trio. 

Because of his lifelong "weakness" for relatives, however dis- 
tant, could anything have pleased Baby more? 

I was glad when the holidays were over and a new sun began 
to turn the Eskimos from hooch to early preparations for spring 
whaling. Hard work seemed their only salvation. 

We at the station set an example by nearly killing ourselves 
building oomiaks and overhauling equipment. I myself worked so 
constantly making lashings that by February I hated to look a 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 163 

piece of whalebone in the eye. Since we were out of fish, I seized 
on that as an excuse for a short fishing excursion all by myself. 

The camp was only about forty miles inland and clear moon- 
light and long hours of mushing brought me there in a day and a 
half. Presently, I started back with all the fish the sled would 
load. 

The weather was fine that morning, with just enough breeze to 
make one hustle to keep warm. Afternoon brought a freshening of 
the wind. By dark it was blowing a gale, and with the temperature 
dropping fast, I knew I couldn't reach home that night. Still, I was 
warmly clad in skin clothing, so decided to push on as long as pos- 
sible. To help the straining dogs I even harnessed myself alongside 
the sled. 

The forty-below-zero weather offered a challenge and I was 
glorying in the rough going when all at once I slipped and went 
down awkwardly. But my laughter was cut short by a draft of icy 
air that made me feel like one of the little tomcods which curled 
and froze stiff the instant the women fished them up through the 
ice. 

Investigation showed that in falling I had split the inside leg- 
seam of my skin pants from knee to crotch. This called for major 
repairs in a hurry. 

Shaking from the icy up-draft, I managed to build a tiny snow 
shelter and feed the dogs without actually freezing to death. Then, 
crawling inside, I lit my native stone lamp, feeding it with seal oil 
and using chopped moss mixed with oil for a wick. It gave little 
heat and hardly any light just enough to let me find my sewing 
kit. I always kept this vital item in a certain part of my pack, so 
knew exactly where to look. But the kit wasn't there. 

Really alarmed now, I wound my snow shirt around the exposed 
leg and began pawing through the whole pack. Still no kit. 

For the first time in my life while traveling, I'd left my sewing 
kit behind! 

Well, I had to sew those pants up somehow, or freeze. 

After much rummaging I found an empty 45/70 cartridge shell 



164 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

and made a small hole in it for an eye. Then I whittled away at the 
thing until something emerged that might pass for a needle. Thread 
was easier, the ravelings out of my sled cover furnishing the raw 
material. 

I have often laughed at the picture I must have presented that 
night: a lone, shivering white man with no pants on, seated tailor- 
fashion in a snow hut eleven hundred miles from the Pole, sew- 
ing for dear life by the faint gleam of a seal-oil lamp. It was no 
joke at the time. 

I was thankful enough to wriggle into my pants once more, and 
eat a couple of frozen fish, gratefully washing them down with a 
small bucket of tea for dessert. 

Next morning the weather turned fine again and that night I 
reached home with my patchwork still holding. I shall never forget 
Toctoo's face when she looked at those pants. She didn't know 
whether to laugh or cry. In the end she gave me some advice about 
leaving sewing kits behind when traveling in the Arctic. 

Good, sound advice but needless. 



CHAPTER XXX 

As far back as George Leavitt's day, I had seen the beginning of a 
change in the Eskimo attitude towards white man's whaling meth- 
ods. By the spring of 1894, those few natives who still preferred 
running boats of their own to hiring out to us met little success. 
Somehow, their forefathers' charms no longer worked regrettable 
as this seemed from a sentimental point of view. 

But neither native nor white had time for sentiment where whal- 
ing was concerned. Which leads me to make a confession. I've never 
felt particularly proud of the incident, and yet well, here goes. 

The first season of the Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Com- 
pany had been a big success. Nine whales! It was while cruising 
far off the coast in search of a tenth that my crew spotted a flock 
of seagulls feeding on what we found to be a dead whale, almost 
fresh. We towed the carcass to a small piece of ice for easier 
handling. 

Suddenly one of the men gave a surprised grunt and pointed 
excitedly. Our whale had an iron in its body. By rights it belonged 
to someone else. 

You may remember how several years before, when we hadn't 
killed a whale all season, the Eskimos had robbed us of one that 
we had struck and lost; and how we'd let them get away with it for 
fear of trouble. I had thought that our wisest course, but the in- 
justice had always rankled. 

Now the sight of this tell-tale iron brought it all back. 

"Swing around so I can see whose iron that is," I ordered. 

They swung our stern until I managed to cut out the protruding 
metal. But nobody ever examined it. Somehow, the iron slipped 
right through my fingers and fell overboard. 

Still kidding me because of my "awkwardness," the boys headed 
for home with the extra bone which closed our season. 

165 



166 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

No, I've never felt exactly proud of the performance. Yet the 
squaring of that old account, almost forgotten these fifty-odd years, 
gives me a glow of righteous satisfaction even today. 

Another source of satisfaction about then was the addition of 
my old friend, Fred Hopson, to our Company payroll again. Every- 
one liked Fred. Besides, his joining the station left me freer to 
spend the summer as I wished. 

In those days Harrison Bay, ISO miles to the east, was a great 
place for boat-lumber; and since we wanted to run eight oomiaks 
next season, including three new ones to be built, I decided on a 
leisurely trek eastward, hunting, fishing and exploring, with Har- 
rison Bay and its lumber my nominal objective. One of the Point 
Barrow natives named Attooktua, who knew the country and was 
an excellent boat-builder, agreed to go along. 

Taking our whaling oomiak on its sled, with another frame sled 
and four dogs, we finally got away late in June Attooktua and his 
wife, Toctoo with our baby, and I traveling by easy stages until 
we came to a party of Eskimo hunters camped near the mouth of 
the Chipp River back of Point Tangent. 

Some of them hailed from far-off Kotzebue Sound, having left 
there the previous summer. When we saw how loaded down they 
were with furs of beaver, land otter, marten and mink, I suddenly 
remembered that ours was a trading as well as whaling company. 

"When you get around Point Barrow," I told them, "take all 
your stuff to my man, Con. He'll pay you more than the ships 
will." 

There was a powwow. Finally most of them said they would, 
although several made it clear that they wanted their pay in 
"tonga/' or whiskey. I have no doubt they got their "tonga," but 
not from the Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Company. 

Then, striking inland for some days, we paddled, hauled and 
shoved through a tortuous region of rivers and ponds until we 
reached huge Tashicpuk Lake. Attooktua assured me it had a bad 
reputation. Very bad, indeed. 

The Eskimos used to come here to spear ducks from their small 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 167 

kayaks, he said. Now they were all afraid, since several had been 
attacked by ferocious fish larger than a kayak. A pleasant tale to 
fall asleep on just before setting out on a two-day paddle down 
that same waterway! 

I kept a sharp lookout the whole time, hoping to catch sight of 
one of these fish, but nothing bothered us. Shortly after landing 
at the eastern end, Attooktua came running with bulging eyes and 
pointed in triumph to the ancient bones of some large animal which 
he insisted formed part of the backbone of one of the man-eating 
fish. 

This was the only "proof" I ever found of their existence. How- 
ever, the legend undoubtedly had its source in something besides 
Attooktua's lively imagination. Long afterwards an old man told 
me of having escaped death from these terrible fish only by being 
in a big oomiak with others, instead of in his flimsy kayak alone. 
At the time, they were using paddles stained bright red. The great 
fish, he said, came alongside their oomiak, snapping viciously at 
the blades which they probably took for raw meat. 

We were in no hurry to come out on Harrison Bay for our oomiak 
lumber. With caribou all about us and fish so numerous that some- 
times we could catch a week's supply in a single hour, it was a 
great life. 

Attooktua seemed quite familiar with the whole region and one 
of our camping spots reminded him that right here was where some 
Nubook natives had lost two of their children to an oogroognoon 
not so long ago. 

"That's a new one," I observed. "What's an oogroognoon?" 

Attooktua pictured the animal minutely. It was the size of a 
small bear and lived in a den under the banks of the lake, coming 
out only when hungry. He described how its fur, fine like a beaver's, 
glistened under water when the sun shone on it. 

"Well, what about these two children?" 

Attooktua shrugged. They had gone over the hill to play and 
never had been seen since. So undoubtedly the oogroognoon had 
carried them to its den and devoured them. 



168 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

I tried to suggest that wolves might have been responsible, but 
he looked so hurt that I didn't press the matter. In fact, it passed 
out of my mind entirely until he came back to camp one day lug- 
ging a curious skull. Perhaps now I would believe what he had 
told me. See! Here was the skull of an oogroognoon no doubt the 
very one that had dragged the children to its under-water den. 

I examined the skull and, with a solemn nod, handed back to 
him the skull of a prehistoric horse! 

Just east of us was a river widened to a lake. Here we visited 
some native hunters engaged in spearing caribou from their kayaks. 
Attooktua showed me two rows of sod piled a couple of feet high 
and covered with pillars of black moss. The rows were about three 
miles long, I judged, and a mile apart at the far end, but narrowed 
to a point of land which led into the lake. 

Whenever a herd entered the wide-open section, all the women 
and children circled about, gradually driving the animals into this 
converging runway where they mistook the moss-covered pillars 
for more human enemies. It was amazing the way they sheared 
from side to side as they got in deeper, too frightened to leap the 
low ridges which alone separated them from freedom. 

Finally, driven out on the point, they would take to the water 
to escape. The waiting hunters, lying under the bank in kayaks, 
now forced their craft right in among the swimming caribou, spear- 
ing them from both sides. Sometimes they killed as many as a 
hundred in one drive. 

Just for the experience, and much against Attooktua's advice, I 
took my place in one of their kayaks and listened as a great antlered 
herd came plunging across the soft tundra right into the water 
where we lay hidden. 

As Attooktua well knew, I was no expert with a ticklish kayak 
and had my hands full keeping rightside up, let alone using a spear. 
The result was that several animals had been lanced before I got 
anywhere near. But after a while I managed to maneuver into 
proper position and killed two. That was enough for me. It seemed 
like slaughter. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 169 

Before the hunters broke camp I bought one of their kayaks. 
Attooktua bought another, thinking it would give him a better 
chance to rescue me when I turned turtle. 

Then for several weeks we hunted by ourselves, and in our own 
orthodox way. It was grand sport except for mosquitoes. We won- 
dered, sometimes, who was the hunter, who the hunted. That was 
when they grew so fierce that we could do nothing but seal ourselves 
in the tent and wait for a breeze. 

The caribou fared worse. They would plunge madly into any 
handy lake or river and stand there all day with only their noses 
out. Otherwise, they tried to escape the torment by just running. 

By the middle of August, with over one hundred caribou to our 
credit, we finally pitched camp at Harrison Bay, loaded down with 
bales of dried meat and skins. Then began the job of selecting 
lumber for next year's oomiaks. 

Attooktua and I were busy roughing out some frames one eve- 
ning when the women cried that there was a whaleboat coming 
from the east 



CHAPTER XXXI 

PRESENTLY, a second boat appeared. Spotting our camp, both 
headed in. 

As they drew nearer I could make out a lot of cussing mixed 
with their loud talk, and gathered that to them we were just one 
more lousy bunch of natives. 

I didn't mind in the least being taken for an Eskimo, but the 
language coming across the water would have 'roused a saint. I was 
all set to bellow back in kind. On second thought, I waited until 
the first boat hit the beach, then, bowing low, cut short their leader's 
foul abuse with a clipped and really elegant, 

"Good evening, gentlemen! Please consider us at your service." 

Sixteen jaws dropped. The second boat grounded in silence. At 
last somebody laughed and I haw-hawed back. Next moment they 
had turned into human beings, so far as possible for a type like 
that. 

It seemed they belonged to the bark "Reindeer," recently forced 
ashore by the ice at Cross Island. Their captain had transferred to 
another ship. The rest of the crew would be along later in a third 
whaleboat. All were bound for the Refuge Station at Utkiavie; 
and now, they inquired quite humbly, what th ? hell could I give 
J em to eat? 

Several kettlesful of boiled meat put them in an almost skittish 
frame of mind. It wasn't long before somebody noticed our two 
kayaks and several of the men immediately wanted to test them 
out. Both Attooktua and I tried to prevent this. 

"Aw, let th' damn fools drown if they want to," their leader 
put in. 

The first fellow had hardly pushed off from the beach before 
he wobbled a few times and capsized. So we hauled him out and 
put him in bed while Toctoo and Attooktua's wife dried his clothes. 

170 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 171 

Nobody else wanted to try. 

My sole regret over the incident was that it confirmed Attook- 
tua's poor opinion of any white man fooling around with a kayak. 
Whenever I took mine out he still cackled like an old hen over 
a duckling in a pond. 

After sending our shipwrecked mariners west next morning with 
ample fresh meat in their whaleboat and a good wind behind, we 
stayed at Harrison Bay a couple of days longer, then packed up 
and sailed after them, our two kayaks towing lightly behind. 

It was while held up by several days of bad weather at the mouth 
of a river half way to Cape Halkett that we watched the third 
whaleboat from the "Reindeer" wallowing by well offshore. We 
could see that they knew nothing about sailing. They even had 
their sail hoisted upside down. How they got this far without com- 
ing to grief seemed a miracle. 

Attooktua's worry over me and my kayak came to a head shortly 
after. It happened that a Utkiavie-bound party of natives came 
ashore and camped near us on a lagoon, beyond which was some 
excellent hunting. Since these chaps used their kayaks for getting 
across and bringing back their meat, I insisted that we do the 
same. But poor Attooktua was so afraid I'd drown that our new 
neighbors thought it a good joke. Finally, one of them grew care- 
less and actually tipped over himself fortunately in shallow water, 
since none of the natives could swim a stroke. After that, poor 
Attooktua's well-meant warnings really got on my nerves. I didn't 
like being coddled before strangers, anyhow and decided to end 
this kayak foolishness, once for all. 

The day was unusually warm. While our two parties were lying 
in the sun swapping news, I quietly pushed off in my kayak and 
sounded the river from bank to bank, finding good, deep water the 
whole seventy or eighty feet. 

Sneaking into our empty tent unnoticed, I peeled off every stitch 
of clothing. Then with a yell I burst out, galloped full-speed to the 
bank and took a header in the river. 

Coming up 6n the opposite side and looking back, it seemed as 



172 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

if all hands had gone crazy. Men, women and children ran around 
shouting and screaming, A small rescue group led by Attooktua 
was shoving one of the big oomiaks into the water. They never had 
seen a person dive before and thought I was drowning. When they 
noticed me swimming leisurely towards them, a great silence fell 

But afterwards, Attooktua said plenty, and for quite a while was 
very angry with me for scaring him to death. His real grievance, 
I think, was that he couldn't worry over me in a kayak any more. 
In fact, he never referred to my kayak again except once. 

We were halfway across shallow, treacherous Smith Bay when 
a squall hit us. Soon our deeply laden oomiak was shipping water 
dangerously. With the nearest land five or six miles off, and two 
women and a baby aboard, we were in a bad way. Then in rapid 
gutturals Attooktua explained how my kayak might save us. 

"Worth trying," I yelled back. 

After hauling the wildly yawning craft alongside, we tied a rain- 
coat over the "manhole" cockpit to make it tight. His scheme was 
then to lash to the kayak, forward and aft, some of those boat- 
frames we were taking home, fastening their other ends to our 
oomiak. This gave us a makeshift catamaran with a kayak "out- 
rigger" to keep us steady. Our whole party now shifted to the lee 
side to prevent the kayak from lifting out of the water at every roll. 

When all was ready, we cautiously raised a reefed sail, prepared 
to yank it down again at the first sign of trouble. She took it beauti- 
fully. So, giving her full sail, we came tearing over to Cape Simpson 
in a cloud of spray and presently landed behind a sandy point, 
thoroughly soaked, but otherwise unharmed. 

A few days later saw our party safely home with one hundred 
thirty-seven skins, many bales of dried meat, and all the woodwork 
for three new oomiaks. 

That was my idea of a summer vacation! 

One thing bothered me, though. "Anybody seen the crew of the 
'Reindeer 7 ?" I asked, as soon as we landed. 

"Don't worry," said Fred, with a disgusted laugh, "they're over 
at the Rescue Station. You can't drown drunks or fools, Charlie." 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 173 

When we didn't arrive as early as expected, Fred had gathered 
an Eskimo crew and started down the coast to investigate. Forced 
to camp near Point Tangent by the same bad weather that was 
delaying us farther east, his introduction to the "Reindeer's" men 
consisted in helping the crew of the third whaleboat to get ashore 
from their badly stove craft. 

"I figured they were greenhorns from the way they had their 
sail set," Fred observed. "And I knew it soon's we got 'em on the 
beach. That blacksmith O Lord!" 

Fred doubled up with laughter so that others had to describe 
how the blacksmith, considering himself an officer of sorts, had 
strapped on a 45/70 revolver and threatened to shoot anybody who 
didn't do as he ordered. 

After getting the men ashore, Fred's first job had been to take 
the fellow's gun away. His second, to try and prevent their setting 
out next morning in weather that would have finished any new boat, 
not to mention a hastily repaired one. * 

But when the blacksmith insisted on trying it, all Fred could 
do was hand him back his revolver and wait until they'd stove 
another hole in their boat which fortunately happened close 
enough to the beach for Fred and his men to haul them out, as be- 
fore. Only this time they lost everything they owned. 

"Yes, sir," Fred resumed, "takes more than one ducking to 
knock sense into imbeciles. But it sure made me hot," he added, 
apologetically, "having to lug them back here to the Rescue Station 
instead of going on to look for you." 

We were all quite satisfied later when long-suffering Captain 
Healy of the "Bear" gave the "Reindeer" men passage south where 
they belonged. 



CHAPTER XXXII 

THE Point Barrow of those days was the world's northernmost 
"gambling den." 

With the ice pack our table, bomb-guns for cards and whales 
the stake, we handful of whites played against the Arctic through 
good luck and bad, too busy dodging thrashing flukes to realize 
that the industry as a whole was beginning to slip even then. 

Ice and storm took their annual toll. Many of the sailing ships 
were lost each season, never to be replaced. When a new steam 
whaler went into service now it was only to make up for another 
crushed and abandoned. But to us, one profitable season meant 
another sure to follow. If it didn't, we cheerfully chanted our old 
refrain "But wait till next spring! " 

Only a God-given optimism could have kept us grinning after 
so disappointing a season as the spring of 189S, with two lone 
whales taken by our eight boats. It helped, of course, to know that 
Kelley, with all his twenty crews, had killed only one. We were 
very human. 

But if bone was scarce, excitement wasn't. It started right in 
before the season had fairly opened when a heavy northeast gale 
caught all Kelley's boats and most of ours many miles south of the 
road. Soon neither Attooktua nor I nor anybody else in our boat 
could see fifty feet inshore. That was all right. We were used to it. 
No one thought for a minute that the ice we were on could possibly 
break. 

So all hands felt reasonably secure until I glanced seaward and 
grabbed Attooktua's arm. Then he, too, saw the great outer pack 
drifting towards us directly against the gale. Here, it seemed, was 
something new under the sun. The laws of nature in reverse! 

Attooktua caught the truth quicker than I that instead of the 
pack coming to us, we were floating towards the pack. Adrift and 

174 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 175 

miles from help, it seemed an age that we stood huddled together 
on that drifting floe before a narrow, crooked lead opened up almost 
at our feet. 

Into this we launched our oomiak and clambered aboard. Then, 
sailing and paddling a zigzag course, with the lead threatening to 
close any second, we finally hit a fifteen-foot ridge of ice with a jar 
that threw us in a heap. We had hardly hauled out on a small ledge 
and hacked a path for our boat through the ridge when the lead 
closed behind us with the deafening crash of a freight-train col- 
lision. Another minute and we should have been pulverized "ex- 
ceeding fine." 

Kelley's boats had a bad time of it, too. One of them under a 
chap named Nelson was stove in and lost. When an Eskimo led 
him stumblingly to my camp late the next afternoon, this Nelson 
was as badly rattled as I ever hope to see a white man. Just why 
he had abandoned his clothes during his mad scramble over the 
ice I never quite understood. 

In thinking back to 1895, that is the picture which always stands 
out Nelson coming over the ice in only an undershirt, with a 
woman who worked in his boat following at a discreet distance 
loaded down with all the duds he'd thrown away. 

If the ceremonial whale dance was less elaborate than usual that 
year, both natives and whites made up for it by cutting loose in the 
popular football game which followed. 

As played by the Eskimos, football was a game of endurance, not 
skill. Every moonlit night, spring and fall, the whole village turned 
out for the sport, and since Kelley's arrival we'd all been joining 
in. The ball used was about eight inches in diameter and covered 
with tanned deerskin, each side kicking it along the hard snow. 
Since there were no goals nor any limit to the playing field, a game 
might end five or six miles from the start. 

The great game of 1895 was certainly the longest and best that 
had taken place. It ended as usual far out on the sea ice amid holes 
already melted large enough for setting seal nets. We had been 
getting the better of it when Kelley's crowd suddenly grabbed two 



176 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

of our fastest runners and ducked them through a handy hole. Our 
boys then singled out their best-dressed pair and ducked them. 
That finished the night's football and everybody came ashore to 
wrestle. 

That is, everybody except one of my Eskimo boys who, in kick- 
ing at the ball, had ripped his foot from the front end of the big toe 
almost to the instep. 

I got him over to the station and started gingerly sewing him up. 
Soon, however, I discarded my gentle touch. The skin on the sole 
of his foot was so thick that it took muscle and a pair of pliers to 
force the needle through. 

And because he sat there watching the operation with the dead- 
pan face of a bored spectator, I was thankful he felt no pain. Later, 
I wasn't sure whether it had hurt him or not because of what hap- 
pened when I tackled a real emergency the following spring. 

This was caused by some boys fooling around with a rifle that 
"wasn't loaded." The old story. So here they came bringing Arni- 
vigger, one of our best whalemen, with a .44 bullet lodged some- 
where in his hip. 

I probed around a while, found nothing and hesitated to start in 
on all the butchery that would be necessary to get the darned thing 
out. It was apparent that this was no plain sewing job on an 
Eskimo's calloused sole, but one for a surgeon equipped with anaes- 
thetics and something more than an old razor and a pair of forceps 
used for pulling teeth. 

"Does it hurt when you move?" I asked Arnivigger. 

He sat up on the kitchen table, swinging his legs over the side. 
Then he took a few cautious steps. 

No. It didn't hurt him. He was all right. 

"But that bullet ought to come out, you know," was my half- 
hearted reply. "Otherwise " 

No, it would heal, he insisted. Better leave it alone. Besides, he 
couldn't afford to miss the whaling. 

"Well," I answered, against my better judgment, "I'll bandage 
it the best I can, and we'll see." 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 177 

As whaling approached, I examined Arnivigger's hip every few 
days and each time drew a longer breath of relief. It did seem to be 
healing fine. 

By the time we hauled our boats out to the flaw the last of April, 
Arnivigger was on the job as usual and went through all the hard 
work of a second poor season. Not a whale was taken by our 
crowd until the very end of May. Then we killed five in succession, 
but all so small that the bone wasn't worth much. 

Except for a lucky accumulation of one hundred twenty-five 
bearskins, most of which had been dried on a big driftwood rack 
behind the house, the Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Company 
would have been "busted." 

On top of this situation, Arnivigger came limping into the station 
one day with what I thought was probably a twisted ankle. But no 
such luck. 

The trouble, he explained apologetically, was that three hard 
substances hurt him here. 

When he pointed to that long-healed bullet wound in his hip I 
must have groaned, but he assured me that it was very simple. All 
I need do was cut the hard substances out and he would be well. 

Finally, I promised to do what I could, but explained bluntly 
that it would hurt and that we would have to tie him to the big 
table in the front room to prevent his moving. 

No, he said. It wasn't the pain he minded. It was being tied up. 
Besides, that wasn't necessary because he wouldn't stir a muscle. 

The only other thing he insisted on was being allowed to remove 
his labrete, the stone lip ornaments then worn by every native man 
and boy over fourteen. Just why he was so particular about this 
unimportant detail I never discovered. 

After getting him to strip and lie face-down on the table, I called 
in four of our men and showed them how to hold his arms and legs. 
Then I got out the old razor and forceps, gritted my teeth and 
started in. 

At the first incision I hit something hard that refused to budge 
without more cutting around the edge. But at last the forceps 



178 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

brought this away a piece of bone over an inch and a half across. 

I wiped my face and stopped to regard the situation. As Arnivig- 
ger hadn't moved, I thought I'd better go through with the rest of it. 

At the next try I must have cut a large vein from the way the 
blood flowed. It scared me. But after keeping my finger pressed 
on the spot for about a minute, the blood stopped and I removed 
the .44 bullet with one end smashed that had caused all the trouble. 

Once I thought sure Arnivigger had fainted. Nothing of the kind. 
He was just lying there like a piece of driftwood waiting for me to 
go ahead. 

Then I went after the last of the "hard substances/' which came 
away quite easily and turned out to be an inch off the end of his 
backbone. 

I don't know how much longer we could have kept up this sort 
of thing had there been need. I was beginning to feel like an archae- 
ologist and my patient showed no feeling at all. But it was a relief 
to be able finally to clean the wounds, bring them together with 
adhesive tape and call it a day. 

I last heard of Arnivigger years later, in 1927. He was trapping 
along the Colville River and making a good living at it, too. 

But if I felt some pride in what I'd done for him thirty-one years 
earlier, I also remembered that his prompt recovery had not been 
an unmixed blessing at the time. For after that, cutting became a 
fad at Point Barrow, and I was in constant demand by the natives. 
Whenever one of them had a pain he couldn't account for, he 
wanted me to cut it. My refusal only sent them to their own devil- 
doctors who now added plain and fancy cutting to their more au- 
cient rites, keeping small flint knives for the special purpose of 
"cutting pains." 

Even today a knife is the first thing those Eskimos think of if 
they feel so much as a headache. 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

MY life in the far North has always been marked by periods when 
nothing much happened and Time itself offered the quaint illusion 
of having congealed along with the elements. Then all at once 
events would pile up as if trying frantically to restore the balance. 

News brought by the ships in 1896 was a case in point. Refuge 
Station abandoned by Government building bought by Captain 
Knowles for a new whaling station Knowles' death soon after- 
wards his company's decision to quit whaling at Utkiavie. 

All this was upsetting. I hated particularly to see Kelley and his 
crowd go. Nor did it help to have Con and our cook leave with 
them. But there was a cheerier side. The fact that H. Liebes was 
sending up the schooner "Bonanza" to act as tender meant that 
our company was to keep on whaling in a field now practically our 
own. 

In the midst of all these important changes came the incident 
of John to furnish a note of comic relief. It happened this way: 

Fred and I had started out to visit the Herschel Island fleet's 
tender "Jennie" which had tied up for a day to an ice ridge just 
north of the house. I was rowing and so couldn't see ahead. But I 
wondered what Fred was staring at so popeyed. At last I turned 
around and, resting on my oars, stared popeyed too. 

A slab of floating ice ahead of us bore an old leather trunk on 
which sat a man whose long mittened hands fairly drooped dejec- 
tion. It was something straight out of a comic opera! 

Half believing ourselves victims of an optical illusion, we pulled 
alongside to be greeted by a disillusioning blast of salty oaths. 
They were directed not at us, as we first thought, but at Captain 
Mason, of the nearby "Jennie." Between outbursts, the castaway 
said his name was John, that he was bound for Herschel Island and 
had shipped on the "Jennie" at Port Clarence, 

179 



180 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

It seemed he and Mason had had words about something that 
morning and the skipper had ordered him ashore as fast as he could 
"git." Not satisfied with the speed shown, Mason then threw John's 
trunk overboard and John after it. By some work of the devil the 
ice broke adrift at that moment, leaving John yelling for help "and 
that God-damned skipper yelling back that I could drift to hell for 
all he cared.' 7 

Fred and I reconsigned the man to a larger slab of ice farther in, 
with the promise that if nobody came along meanwhile we'd take 
him back to the beach when we returned. 

We did, too although Mason assured us that the fellow was 
a lazy lubber whom he'd had to dump overboard because the 
"Jennie" needed no more "dead ballast," 

John I never did learn his last name stayed with me for 
several years and proved a handy man, despite a childlike tendency 
to "lift" whatever caught his fancy. He never took anything that 
amounted to much, and when caught not only acknowledged the 
theft but always insisted on paying for it. 

He was one of the oddest of many queer specimens to cross my 
path. Not even Mr. Stevenson, our missionary and school teacher, 
ever quite understood him. 

Which is saying a good deal because Mr. Stevenson had a rare 
understanding of human nature, both native and white. After 
visiting the Point Barrow district a couple of years before he had 
been forced to go outside again for a year and had only recently 
returned. This time he brought a lot of lumber for a new school- 
house and mission which he got the Eskimos to help him erect. 

I have known numerous men and women sent to these parts to 
teach the natives. For some I had no use. Others I admired. Steven- 
son, a Christian gentleman with his feet on the ground, was one 
of the most successful of them all when you consider that every 
devil-doctor in Utkiavie worked against him at the start. He had a 
special knack with all the kids and made some headway teaching 
school as well as giving them their first inkling of what we call 
morality. I hoped some time to send my two oldest daughters out- 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 181 

side so that they might go to school in Ohio. When Stevenson agreed 
to take them out as soon as circumstances permitted, there wasn't 
a man I'd have trusted them to any quicker. 

His work at Utkiavie was helped a little, perhaps, by the fact 
that just now, after hundreds of years, a spirit of change was in the 
air. White men had shown the Eskimos better whaling methods. 
Maybe the white man wasn't such a fool after all. 

Mind, I don't say the spirit of change was responsible for the 
unheard-of rebellion of Taha's wife. Probably the combination of 
Taha's puny stature and Ocpullu's Amazonian proportions had 
more to do with that. 

The little runt of a devil-doctor had taken this strapping female 
from Nubook for his second wife something he should never have 
risked since she had already buried two husbands since I had known 
her. 

Taha's next mistake was in treating her like a slave. After this 
had gone on a while, the huge woman up and quit him. Whereupon 
the little devil-doctor, feeling his manhood at stake, caught up with 
her and attempted to give her the sort of thrashing that he and the 
rest of the village felt she deserved. That was his third and nearly 
fatal blunder. 

Before she was through with poor Taha he had been clawed and 
scratched and pommelled and finally laid out cold. Ocpullu came 
quietly back to their igloo, leaving her "lord and master" to recover 
at the place where she had knocked him out. 

It was several days before Taha could walk. Then he came home, 
too. But now she would have nothing to do with him whatsoever 
and Taha lost face with everyone. This was a perfectly awful thing 
to happen from an Eskimo point of view. So the whole village got 
together officially and shipped the woman back to Nubook, where 
she belonged. 

Although she finally married a white man and moved with him 
to Point Hope, "Ocpullu's Rebellion" was long discussed around 
the household hooch stills. 

Unfortunately, the hooch problem was one thing that had under- 



182 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 
gone no change at least, none for the better. We were the only 
whites there now, so that I knew that all the flour and molasses 
being used must come from the Eskimos at our own station. After 
a couple of Christmas murders had brought matters to a peak, I 
went over to the village one day to see what a little talk would do. 

"Why don't you people quit making this stuff ?" I asked. "It's 
killed some of your best men already. Do you want the people of 
Utkiavie to die out?" 

Mungie acknowledged that what I said was true and many agreed 
with him. A lot of the older ones, however, declared stoutly that 
they would make the stuff so long as they could get anything to 
make it,of. 

"Then I'll smash your stills as fast as I find ? em ; " I said, and 
walked off amid laughter. 

I'd tackled the problem at the wrong end. 

Reaching home, I told our Eskimos that if any of them ever 
gave or sold his ration of flour and molasses to the villagers I'd 
stop issuing it to all, guilty or not. 

They saw I meant it and promised that no more flour and mo- 
lasses would reach the village through them. 

I don't think it did very often. In fact, I heard of only two cases 
after that in which hooch was being made in Utkiavie. John and I 
took direct action against these by walking in and smashing the 
stills a la Carrie Nation, only we used pick-handles. Nobody made 
the slightest attempt to hinder us. It merely saddened them to see 
so much good liquor go to waste. 

In spite of the current poor run of whales, word reached me in 
1897 that our Company intended establishing a branch station 
down at Icy Cape. This meant that material would probably arrive 
with the first steamers to get through the ice that summer. I decided 
to meet them at Icy Cape. 

Leaving early in July with one boat and an Eskimo crew, it took 
nearly three weeks to reach the Cape. Luckily, my men were young 
and husky and not afraid of tough going. They got plenty that trip. 




\ 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 183 

We had to sled the outfit, boat and all, the whole distance. But we 
had a chance to kill two polar bears along the coast, besides twenty- 
three seals later at Blossom Shoals during a week's wait. Then the 
first ship arrived from the south. She was the "Navarch." 

I went aboard at once to get the latest news from her skipper, 
Captain Whitesides, and for the first time met the man whose 
extraordinary behavior was to go down through the years as an 
ugly blot on my memories of the sea. 

Nothing of this was apparent at the time ? although his news was 
disappointing. Our Company, he said, had changed its mind and 
finally decided not to start a branch there, after all Too bad I'd 
made the hard trip for nothing. He'd be delighted to give me 
passage back to Point Barrow where he planned to stop anyhow 
on his way to the eastern whaling grounds. ' 

"Afraid I've got too many men with me, Captain," I reluctantly 
explained. 

"Then send 'em back along the coast and come with me your- 
self. Easier than sledding a boat over the ice, eh?" 

It certainly was. I arranged for the boys to carry the sealskins 
back along the coast, first transferring our bearskins to the "Nav- 
arch." Then I gratefully took up quarters aboard her. The Captain 
introduced me to his wife and the evening passed pleasantly until 
I mentioned the steamer "Karluk," under Captain McGregor, 
which had come in that same afternoon and now lay anchored close 
at hand. 

It seemed McGregor's wife was with him this trip, too, and I 
soon gathered that the two women had a grudge of long standing. 

Said Mrs. Whitesides at last: "If that woman steps a foot on 
this boat" 

Her husband evidently knew what was coming for he got up 
abruptly and left the cabin. 

Presently, the "Navarch" weighed anchor, rounded the icy 
Shoals and anchored again on the north side a rather unwise 
thing to do with the wind west. But it turned out that Whitesides 



184 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

had chosen what to him appeared the lesser of two evils. He was 
grimly apologetic when I joined him on deck later. 
"Better keep 7 em away from each other the women." 
How ironical it seems now, many years afterwards, that so great 
a tragedy could have come out of a silly backyard scrap ! 



CHAPTER XXXIV 

THE "Navarch" lay at anchor reasonably secure until the morning 
of the twenty-eighth when, coming on deck, I noticed that the 
ice had closed in around us considerably over night. 

I had seen the insidious, creeping action of ice too often not to 
call Captain Whitesides* attention to the danger. But instead of 
steaming south of the Shoals again he seemed to think it safe to 
tie up to a large floe, apparently grounded. So here we stayed, while 
drifting ice gradually packed in solid on all sides. 

More concerned with keeping two quarreling women apart than 
with the safety of his ship, he never woke up to our peril until the 
huge floe to which we were anchored broke loose without warning 
and drifted out, carrying the "Navarch" with it. 

This seemed to paralyze the man's ability to act. Vital hours 
passed during which he might still have smashed his way out of the 
gathering trap. When he did try to work loose there wasn't a 
chance. 

Forced farther and farther into the offshore pack, the "Navarch" 
finally reached a point from which ice stretched in every direction 
miles of it. The whole world had turned into drifting ice. 

Far to the southwest we could still see the "Karluk" safely an- 
chored behind the distant Shoals. Finally, her hull disappeared. By 
mid-afternoon even her masts had dropped below the icy horizon. 
The "Navarch" continued her northeast drift, helpless as a fly 
glued to a sheet of floating flypaper. 

We had traveled perhaps thirty or forty miles when the wind, 
hauling northeast, moved the pack farther offshore where it caught 
the full effect of the current sweeping north at three miles an hour. 
The piece we were tied to now began milling around, so that we 
were heading in every direction. Several times during those first 
days we listed dangerously to port or starboard as the ice crushed 

185 



186 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

in around us, first on one side, then the other. 

The second of August, when we were somewhere north of the 
Sea Horse Islands with little chance of ever working free, Captain 
Whitesides talked things over with his officers and reluctantly de- 
cided to abandon ship. 

His plan was to haul three whaleboats over the ice to the edge 
of the pack, then try to make the nearest land. He turned to me: 

"You've traveled on ice, Brower. Any suggestions that will 
help?" 

I explained how we always put a deep hardwood keel on wooden 
boats to raise them off the ice and keep the bottom boards from 
getting stove. 

"How deep a keel?" 

"Three inches. Four would be better." 

He shook his head. One inch, he said, was plenty. As for taking 
along a bolt or two of heavy canvas to patch with, didn't I under- 
stand that we must haul as little weight as possible? There was no 
arguing with him. 

That night we left the "Navarch," after first putting a couple 
of hogs overboard on the ice and shooting them. 

With the crew divided into three sections, all but two of the men 
harnessed themselves to the boats and strained forward. This pair, 
too old to pull, just tagged along in my care. I was to look after 
Mrs. Whitesides, too. All this time the Captain was adding to the 
general confusion by running around excitedly and issuing need- 
less orders. 

We hauled all night in a southeasterly direction, hoping to head 
south and at the same time in towards land. By morning all hands 
were fagged out and had to rest. But if anybody slept I didn't know 
it. One thing surprised me. Mrs. Whitesides never made the slight- 
est fuss over what was happening. She was game. 

Another long haul brought us to ice so rough that the slowest 
progress was a man-killing job. What I had feared now began hap- 
pening to the boats. Without keels deep enough to raise them 
above the jagged ice, two were soon worthless, with bottom boards 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 187 

ripped away and no canvas to patch them. One we abandoned that 
night. 

"Smash it up for a fire," bellowed Whitesides, stamping about. 
"We'll boil coffee, anyhow." 

Feeling some better for the hot coffee, we pushed on until nearly 
morning when a wide stretch of loose, milling ice stopped us dead. 
It was a time to keep one's head, but the "old man" lost his entirely. 
He seemed to think that the edge of the pack, and open water lay 
just beyond. 

"Wait a while, Captain," I urged. "It may quiet down. I've seen 
ice like this before." 

Whatever I said, he took the contrary view. Now he was for 
getting across at all hazards, and gave orders to start ahead. 

We started. But in trying to get from one piece to another we 
stove both our remaining boats so badly that there was no use sav- 
ing them even if we could. All hands had hard enough work saving 
themselves. When the last man was dragged back to solid footing, 
the Captain broke down and cried. To him that milling ice meant 
the end. 

And yet he had one resource left that I didn't know about. A 
bottle. After taking repeated drinks, he fished a handful of gold 
from his pocket and shook it in our faces. 

"Listen," he croaked, "I J d give all this all, mind you to be 
ashore right now." 

So would the rest of us, but there was no use bawling about it. 
The only thing to do now was get back to the ship, the masts of 
which were still visible on the horizon. So back we turned, the 
stronger ones helping those who were all in. 

We had hardly started when the skipper suddenly ordered: 
"Every man for himself! 7 ' and lit out for the "Navarch," leaving 
his wife to shift for herself. 

Since losing our last two boats Mr. Belaine, the mate, had been 
helping me with Mrs. Whitesides, who could hardly walk now. 
This made our progress almost inch by inch. Once we saw the 
smoke of two steamers on their way along the coast to Point Bar- 



188 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

row, but so many miles inside us that there was no possible chance 
of our being seen. 

We managed to keep together Mrs. Whitesides, Belaine and I 
up to within ten miles of the "Navarch." At least we could just 
make out her black hull. But right here we came to a new break 
where the ice was crushing badly, pressure causing the edges to 
grind together and pile twenty feet high like a jagged mountain 
range. 

"Now what ! " muttered Belaine through tight lips. 

Mrs. Whitesides said nothing, although she must have known 
that carrying her across would be next to impossible. It was all a 
man could do to get over by himself; and, once started, he daren't 
stop for fear of being crushed under. However, if the ice on the far 
side were as solid as it looked from where we stood there might 
be some sense in trying to get the woman across. 

Leaving Belaine with Mrs. Whitesides, I managed to get over 
myself with nothing worse than bruises, and after a quick survey 
signaled them that the ice was fine. Then, before I could get back 
to help with her the pressure let go, leaving a wide lead of water 
where the ridge had been. 

I waited several hours, hoping the lead would close. Finally, 
Belaine and the woman started along the edge, eventually finding 
a far way around. I then headed for the ship. When I got there, two 
polar bears were feasting on the hogs killed when we left. 

Whitesides himself had long since come aboard and turned in. 
So had a number of the crew. They were completely done up. All 
at once my head grew too heavy to hold up and the last I remember 
was slowly sliding off a bench. When I awoke, Mrs. Whitesides and 
Belaine had arrived. The two bears, having finished their feast, 
were gone. 

The Captain's first remark when we met was to accuse me of 
abandoning his wife. 

"What were you doing all the time?" I asked. 

He turned away without a word. 

Other members of the crew wandered back during the day so 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 189 

that by night we had the satisfaction of being all together once 
more, even If our position was infinitely worse. 

The "Navarch," wedged tighter than ever into the pack, had 
been drifting steadily north. Soon we'd pass the latitude of Point 
Barrow, beyond which only one ship, the "Young Phoenix," had 
ever drifted and returned. Another attempt to reach shore was im- 
perative. 

In the little time remaining, all hands worked feverishly building 
a small, hickory- framed boat, copper-riveted and covered with oiled 
canvas to make it watertight. She was light enough for two to lift 
over any kind of ice, yet capable we hoped of ferrying as many 
as ten people at a time across otherwise impassable leads. Then, 
if we got to the edge of the ice before passing Point Barrow, there 
would be some chance yet of making shore. 

The "Navarch" must have been somewhere off Cape Smythe 
when we got ready to abandon her the second time. The Captain 
asked me to go ahead with most of the crew and pick out the best 
route. 

"I'll relieve you of Mrs. Whitesides this time/' he said, icily. 
"We'll follow with the boat and enough men to haul in two shifts. 
I've got a compass too," he added, "if a fog comes on and I have 
to go back to the ship for anything." 

"How about grub?" I inquired. 

"Don't worry. Well be along with all supplies," 

I insisted on one thing, though. Digging out my polar bearskins, 
I lashed them, fur side down, under the bottom of the little boat 
to protect the canvas and make her slip along easier. 

And so we quit our comfortable quarters at three on the morn- 
ing of August tenth, my crowd taking the lead to search out the 
best route for the Captain's party who would follow with the boat. 

Unhampered except for light poles which a few of the men had 
brought to help over the roughest spots, we picked our way along 
for hours without making much progress. Occasionally I'd climb 
a high hummock and look back. Although the men were soon strung 
out a mile or so over the ice, all appeared to be traveling steadily. 



190 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

The Captain's party I assumed to be somewhere at the tail end, 
making sure no one was left behind. 

Sometime in the afternoon we had a diversion up front. An old 
she-bear with two cubs came quite close and followed us along a 
couple of miles before she decided that we weren't worth eating 
and lumbered off in disgust. I had the rifle but didn't shoot that 
family. 

Around five o'clock our vanguard reached the edge of the main 
pack. The ice ahead was all broken, with a thousand leads running 
every which way. Here was where our boat would be worth its 
weight in gold; our little boat with all our supplies which would 
soon be coming along with the Captain's party. 

The hungry men straggled in at long intervals. Most of them had 
eaten what little food they'd brought along. Now they flopped down 
on the wet ice, thankful to rest, eagerly anticipating the "old 
man's" arrival and a square meal. 

"Seen anything of the skipper?" I'd ask. 

"Skipper? Why, no, Charlie. He must be coming back there 
somewhere." 

Always the same answer. Nobody had seen Captain Whitesides' 
party "but they must be coming along." 

The last of our crowd to join us at the edge of the pack was 
John Egan, the second mate. When he appeared, with no one visible 
behind him, I knew something was wrong. Egan's story only deep- 
ened the mystery. 

He reported that he'd been with the Captain at first, but after 
traveling two or three miles from the "Navarch" the skipper had 
suddenly ordered his own group back to the ship. 

"Back to the ship?" I repeated. 

"I figured he'd probably left something behind." 

"Even so, he'd be coming along by this time. He'll have to. Why, 
he's got our joodl" 

The others crowded around, worn and gaunt. Whatever the 
explanation, we were in a fix. 



CHAPTER XXXV 

IT WASN'T food alone or even the boat. We lacked everything. 
Advised by the Captain to travel light until he caught up with us, 
not more than two besides myself had even brought spare boots. 

Some time during the night fog closed in, and later the ice we 
were on separated slightly from the rest. This left us practically 
marooned. 

What worried me most, though, was knowing that north of Point 
Barrow in summer the main pack always splits, one part drifting 
west away from all land, the other taking a northeasterly course 
so that at least there's a coastline somewhere to the south. 

Scratching a diagram in the ice with my knife, I explained that 
we were probably near the latitude of Point Barrow by now ? and 
that when the pack split I for one intended to be on the east side, 

"A man carried west on the old pack would well, you see " I 
jabbed the knife-point into what represented the open Arctic. 

They saw, all right. But we couldn't make a break for it until 
the fog cleared. 

When it did, morning showed that we had traveled a long way 
north of Point Barrow already, and water-clouds ahead of us re- 
flected open water where the pack was beginning to split in two. 

It was high time we moved. 

I don't know yet just how we scrambled back to the solid floe. I 
only remember that after the last man had been hauled, dripping, 
out of the icy maelstrom that lay between, the ice we had been on 
drifted off to the northwest. Then we had to hurry away from the 
churning edge and on to heavier ice, brown and dirty with age. 

Whiting, the steward, who had taken a gloomy view from the 
start, was the worst off. 

"I can't go any farther," ha keptlrepeating. 

I tried to show him that at least we had reached the safe side 

191 



192 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

of the split, so wouldn't be carried west. If we just kept going south 
we'd reach the edge of the pack sometime, with the chance of be- 
ing picked up by a ship. 

This wishful thinking seemed to put new life into him. He got 
up off the ice and paced around as if trying to get warm. He's all 
right, I thought, and turned away. 

Next I knew, Whiting had wandered off into some rough ice and 
shot himself. 

This was bad for everyone. Leaving the body where it lay, we 
started south as fast as we could travel. 

On quitting the ship I had stuffed a dozen pieces of hard bread 
into the top of one of my spare boots and these kept us going the 
rest of the day these and all the water we wanted to drink. 

Throughout the pack we came on little fresh water ponds above 
sea level. They were formed by the higher ice peaks melting in the 
sun and precipitating their salt. So when it rained hard that night 
and nobody minded, it wasn't that we needed drinking water, but 
merely because we were so generally miserable that a little thing 
like rain didn't matter. We were never dry after that. 

On August twelfth we lost two more men. They just gave up, 
asking to be shot. They said they didn't mind dying at all. It would 
be a relief from traveling any more over ice. 

Since carrying them was impossible, we finally had to leave them 
behind, still hoping they'd follow along when they understood we 
couldn't stop. . . . We never saw them again. 

Next morning our chief engineer, Sands, went crazy, wandering 
off by himself if no one were watching. All day he appeared to be 
flickering out, mentally and physically. Along towards evening he 
died. 

It seemed enough death for one day. Yet no sooner had Sands 
passed away than two firemen made that a welcome excuse to stay 
behind "to rest." 

Although low fog hung over us much of the time, we held our 
course by occasional glimpses of the sun. I had managed to keep 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 193 

my watch dry and going, and knowing that the sun bore south at 
noon and north at twelve midnight, I could figure our position at 
different hours of the day. This was a big help. 

Otherwise, clear weather brought nothing but discouragement, 
for then the water clouds were visible far south of us. And since 
these never came any closer, it became increasingly evident that 
we were making no headway towards the open water that lay be- 
tween us and land. In other words, the pack was drifting north as 
fast as we were traveling south. 

It was about then that Egan, the second mate, went snow-blind. 
Aside from that he was in fair shape. To guide him I gave him the 
end of a line I carried around my waist. This worked all right ex- 
cept in crossing channels that had thawed partly through. Then 
I'd tell him how wide the place was, and he'd jump. Sometimes he 
made it. More often I'd have to haul him out by the line. It has 
always given me peculiar satisfaction to remember that Egan was 
with those of us left alive at the end. 

The men's clothing now began to wear out rapidly. It was 
mostly fawnskin which grew so heavy when watersoaked that it 
cut through the linen stitches and literally fell apart. 

In a different way, clothing was largely responsible for the death 
of another man, a young Portuguese, strong and able when we left 
the ship. The trouble was he refused to leave his good clothes be- 
hind and came away wearing three brand new suits, the weight of 
which, when wet, simply wore him down. Then when he finally be- 
gan discarding them he was all in. A day later we left him behind. 

This chap was one of six Portuguese, or South Americans, who 
died during the terrible fifth and sixth days. It was heart-rending 
to see those fellows drop back one by one, hear their cries fade out 
in the distance. Hardest for me to bear was the fact that they al- 
ways called, 

"Charlie! Charlie! Don't leave me Charlie!" 

Their voices rang through my head for years. It almost got me 
at the time. I had never deserted a man in my life, but there was 



194 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

nothing we could do we who were in almost the same condition. 
Unless we reached the edge of the ice in a day or so it would be 
the end for all of us. 

The next man to go was the blacksmith. I don't remember his 
name, only that he hailed from Minnesota. He hung on until the 
soles of his boots wore through, leaving him to stumble barefoot 
over the cinder-sharp ice. Soon his feet were cut to pieces. Then he 
started falling, tearing his fawnskin pants until his knees looked 
like raw meat. Yet all the while I never once heard him complain. 
When we finally had to leave him, he called after us an almost 
cheery 

"Goodbye, boys. I hope you get out." 

That blacksmith from Minnesota was the gamest man I ever 
saw. I wish I knew his name. 

Remarkable how deceptive the top of high ice, when viewed 
above low-hanging fog. 

"Land ! Look, over this way! " 

With fresh hope, the men would turn and hurry off towards what 
they mistook for a distant coastline. This happened many times 
during the seventh and eighth days. If longer experience in the 
Arctic hadn't taught me what it was, I, too, would have worn my- 
self out in these senseless stampedes. It was hard enough to round 
the crowd up again and get them headed south. Such false alarms 
were tough on morale. 

Presently some of the men suffered hallucinations. As the eighth 
day wore on, they grew so confused as to what was real, what false, 
that when we actually came out on the south edge of the pack that 
evening they wouldn't believe what they saw. 

Stripped from the main floe by a northeast wind, cakes of all 
sizes were breaking off and drifting south on an endless ice-strewn 
sea. A thousand rafts to ferry us to land, if 

The "if " was a big one so big that some of the men wanted to 
stay right where we were. The ships, they argued, would certainly 
be looking for us. 

"Most of the ships/' I insisted, "are whaling to the east. Besides, 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 195 

when the wind changes and blows this loose ice back again we'd be 
so far from the edge that they couldn't see us even if we lived that 
long." 

One huge slab of ice near-by seemed ready to break loose any 
moment. It looked fifty or sixty feet long and nearly as wide. With 
one end rising to a miniature peak to be melted by the sun, we'd 
have drinking water, if nothing else. 

"Here's our raft," I said. "Come on." 

Convinced now that my idea was right, two of the men never- 
theless resolved to take smaller cakes themselves. Before we could 
prevent, one of them, a colored fellow from Martinique, jumped 
on a piece far too small and pushed off from the pack. He hadn't 
drifted far when over it rolled and that was the end of him. The 
other man went under, too, and didn't reappear. Frankly, I can't 
say exactly why or how this last happened because of what was 
taking place farther along the ice. 

For Scanlon, the second engineer, had walked away from the 
group to a high place on the pack, probably with the intention of 
searching for a better "raft" than I had chosen. No one realized 
least of all Scanlon that he'd ventured onto a piece already adrift. 
When he tried to jump back again he fell short by inches and was 
too weak to keep afloat until somebody could get there. 

Scanlon was the last man we lost. Sixteen out of thirty-two! The 
rest were willing now to quit that cursed pack, no matter what 
lay ahead. 

At last our piece was released by the ice outside. We started 
drifting southwest before the wind, slowly at first, then gaining 
speed the farther we got from the main floe. 

It was curious how we passed other floating ice traveling in the 
same direction. We would head for a cake, almost smack against it, 
then suddenly veer off and pass it several yards away. There must 
have been a powerful counter-current sweeping east. 

Out here we sighted seals for the first time. One came close to 
us that night and I shot it, hoping we might reach it with one of 
our light poles. But it sank like lead. 



196 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Gradually the ice became more scattered until by morning our 
piece was drifting in comparatively open water. 

Then suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of one of the 
greatest schools of whales I have ever seen in my life. They stayed 
with us through the day. There were literally hundreds, all bound 
west. But what excited us far more was a two-masted steamer which 
hove into view that afternoon far to the south. We lashed three of 
our poles together and tried frantically to signal her with a shirt. 
Nothing happened. 

Later, we were to learn why. The steamer was the "Karluk," 
and from comparing notes with Captain McGregor, it seemed that 
at that particular time the "Karluk" was abreast Smith's Bay at 
least thirty miles away. What we had signaled was only a mirage. 

Except for shooting and losing two more seals next day, we just 
lay about dully on the ice until evening, when suddenly all hands 
were galvanized into action by another prospect of rescue sure 
fire this time. 

Laughing weakly, we pointed out to one another the schooner 
which was coming from the east on a course that would have to 
bring her not more than three miles inside us. Three miles ! We were 
as good as saved. 

"The signal!" 

"What for? They can't help seeing" 

"Gimme that shirt!" 

Up went the signal, just to be sure. 

On she came, booms well out, heeling gracefully to the northeast 
wind a sight for the gods ! 

So we stood on our cake and waved and watched, expecting her 
to head our way. When she was fairly abreast we began yelling. 
She must see us. She couldn't help it. 

The yelling died off, but we kept our signal going until long 
after the schooner had passed us by. 

This was too much for one of the men, a boatheader named Enos, 
who went insane. It was amazing the trouble he gave us a man 
hardly able to keep his feet trying to throw himself into the sea. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 197 

Then, exhausted, he sat down on the ice and stayed there in a 
stupor the rest of the time. 

Several of the others seemed nearly gone. We had been eleven 
days without food, all the while doing the hardest kind of work. 
Only three besides myself were in any kind of shape a boat- 
steerer named Hanson and two seamen, one of them a former Ger- 
man soldier. I remember him in particular because he never shared 
any of his tobacco, though most of the men would have given their 
souls for a chew. 

Sometimes it's a little thing like that that sinks into one's mem- 
ory of life's curios among the so-called human race. 

Tobacco or not, we all got through that night somehow, and 
about eleven in the morning sighted what some thought was land. 
By early afternoon I was certain of it. A few hours later I recog- 
nized Cape Halkett, and figuring our present bearing and drift and 
the direction of the wind, had great hopes for a while that we would 
drift inside the point. 

But the current from the west was too strong and our ice cake 
passed the tip of Halkett fully two miles out. Even so I scanned the 
distant Cape until my eyes blurred. This had always been quite a 
camping place for Eskimos on their way from the Colville River. 
But not a tent was visible as we continued our offshore swing along 
the barren coast. 

Even our approach to Cape Halkett had caused no great stir 
among the men. They had been disappointed too often to care much 
what happened. I was beginning to understand how they felt when, 
late in the afternoon, the smoke of a steamer coming east brought 
a last flare-up of hope and dread. When she hove in sight over the 
horizon, gradually it dawned on all but poor Enos, who never 
shifted his fixed stare, that her course between the bulge of Cape 
Halkett on one side and the ice pack on the other must necessarily 
bring her near. 

An increasing stir of excitement went through us. Too weak now 
to rig any signal, we could only sit there on the ice and watch her 
approach. Suddenly one of the men's outstretched arms with point- 



198 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

ing finger announced eloquently that she was heading our way . . . . 

The steamer was the old "Thrasher" of the Pacific Steam Whal- 
ing Company, with Captain Barney Coogan in command. I learned 
later how narrowly we escaped being seen, after all. A Siberian 
Eskimo had been in the crow's nest at the time and reported a herd 
of walrus off the starboard bow. Since walrus seldom go east of 
Point Barrow, one of the officers turned curious glasses on where 
we were huddled together on the ice. 

That was why the "Thrasher" was soon easing alongside and lift- 
ing aboard what remained of our original crowd of thirty-two. 

"Twelve days? My God!" exclaimed Captain Coogan. 

He wouldn't give us much to eat at first. Coogan was too wise 
for that. All I wanted, anyhow, was sleep. The steward, Felix Terry, 
was a colored fellow with whom I'd been shipmates on the 
"Grampus." Felix had a tub of hot water ready for me in no time. 
So I took a bath, and in the process dropped asleep. 

When I woke up ages later I was in a bunk, with the "Thrasher" 
anchored at Point Barrow and Tom and Fred aboard to take me 
home. 



CHAPTER XXXVI 

IT had been nearly two months since I started south along the 
coast for Icy Cape, only to drift north around Point Barrow on 
the pack and end by coming in from the east aboard the "Thrasher." 

Many ships had arrived and departed. Four still lay at anchor, 
among them our Company tender, the "Bonanza." Captain Sam 
Smith had stubbornly refused to quit the North without learning 
definitely whether I was alive or dead. 

Tom, who planned to close the station if I didn't show up soon, 
had kept all the Eskimo crews hunting for us, sometimes staying 
out days at a time. Until recently, the "Bear," too, had been con- 
stantly searching. She was under Captain Tuttle this year, with 
Lieutenant Jarvis second in command, and for days they had been 
cruising along the ice east of Point Barrow, returning to the Point 
each night to anchor. 

One of my first questions, of course, was "What about Captain 
Whitesides? Did his crowd ever get ashore?" 

"Him?" Tom exploded. "Why, that that " He gave it up 
and turned to Fred. "Tell him what happened." 

Then for the first time I found out that Fred had been on the 
"Bear" himself, volunteering to help stand "masthead." One after- 
noon as they were heading in towards Cooper's Island with Fred in 
the crow's nest he spotted a tent on shore. Thinking it barely possi- 
ble that whoever was camped there might have news of us, Captain 
Tuttle sent a boat in to investigate. When the boat came back it 
brought Whitesides, his wife and several members of the "Nav- 
arch" crew, all in excellent condition. 

Captain Whitesides had left his ship the day after abandoning 
us and, properly equipped with the light boat and plenty of food 
and other supplies, had come in over the ice to the edge of the pack. 
From there it took them only a day to row to Cooper's Island. Had 

199 



200 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 
Whitesides followed us with the boat as he promised, my whole 
crowd of thirty-two might easily have been saved. 

Why hadn't he? That was what I wanted to know. 

"When Tuttle asked him about you folks/' Fred went on, "he 
said you'd been gone four days and must be dead. He was so cer- 
tain that Tuttle finally agreed there wasn't a chance. That's -why 
the 'Bear' quit looking nearly a week ago. My God, Charlie 1 If 
anyone had thought " 

"I don't blame Captain Tuttle," I said. "There wasn't a chance. 
Just one more question. Did anybody find out why Whitesides went 
back to the 'Navarch' that day without letting us know?" 

"Tuttle asked him about that." 

"What did he say?" 

Fred gave a harsh laugh. "Nothing. He just turned away." 

I found out later that Whitesides had left six men behind on the 
drifting "Navarch" three of the older, more helpless ones and 
three who refused to take any more chances with such a skipper. 
So far as anyone knew they were still aboard. 

The fifteen who had come in with me were distributed among the 
four ships at the Point. The crazy one, Enos, was put aboard the 
"Bonanza" to be taken out, but died on the passage south. Holmes 
shipped on the "Thrasher." He was killed that same fall while 
helping cut a whale. Four of the other men had their feet ampu- 
tated. The others just disappeared, as sailors do everywhere. 

More personal sorrows faced Toctoo and me. Our youngest 
daughter was sick when I arrived home, and Mr. Stevenson, having 
given me up for lost, was making arrangements to take the two 
older girls out to the States as he had promised. They were all 
packed and ready to sail on the "Bonanza" when I appeared. 

For a while I didn't know whether to let them go or not. But 
since Stevenson was leaving anyhow, it seemed like the one oppor- 
tunity I'd have to send them out safely in care of someone in whom 
I had the utmost trust. So they left on the "Bonanza." 

That same day our youngest died. 



CHAPTER XXXVII 

THE blow was a hard one particularly for Toctoo. Unexpected 
demands left me less time for private sorrow. 

The fleet which had wintered at Herschel Island had hardly 
started west when the schooner "Rosario" stuck fast in the ice off 
the Point. Next came a report that the steamers "Orca," "Belve- 
dere" and "Jessie Freeman," after smashing their way to the 
vicinity of the Sea Horse Islands, were hopelessly jammed, the 
"Jessie Freeman" already abandoned and her people taken aboard 
the other two. Since none of these ships had more than enough 
food left to get home on, it looked as if we'd have to quarter all 
their officers and men for the winter. 

Meantime, an Eskimo brought word that the steamers "New- 
port" and "Fearless" had been caught seventy miles east of the 
Point, the Herschel Island tender "Jennie" more than a hundred, 
and their skippers wanted to know if we could help them in case 
they had to winter there. 

For once the ice pack did me a friendly turn by bringing heavy 
responsibilities when needed most. 

What, then, could we offer in the way of help and housing? I 
could rely on Dr. Marsh and his wife who had arrived to take Mr. 
Stevenson's place as teacher and missionary. The Refuge Station 
had been rented to E. A. Mclllhenny of Avery Island, Louisiana. 
With two assistants, he was here to collect birds and mammals. 
How, I wondered, would he take to collecting shipwrecked sailors? 
I needn't have worried. 

All these people immediately volunteered to aid in any way 
possible, Mclllhenny himself promising to use his big stove for 
"mass" cooking. There was also Kelley's empty station which 
could be turned into a bunkhouse. 

After assuring the crews stranded to the south that we'd take 

201 



202 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

care of them, I fitted out Tom and Macllhenny to go east as far 
as the "Newport" and "Fearless" to let their anxious skippers know 
that at least they wouldn't starve. 

Tom and Mac came back from their hurried one-hundred-forty- 
mile round trip with a fantastic tale. They doubted if the third ship 
they had seen thirty miles beyond was the "Jennie." 

"Charlie, maybe I'm plumb crazy/ 3 said Tom, solemnly, "but if 
she ain't the 'Navarck' may I never strike another whale!" 

That name turned my thoughts to the six men Captain White- 
sides had left aboard, and from them to the flour and other pro- 
visions I knew she carried in her hold. If only she were the "Nav- 
arch"! 

But first we had to arrange for the crews coming up from the 
south on sleds already dispatched to bring them. The captains 
could bunk with us officers in the Rescue Station most of the 
men in Kelley's old place double rows of makeshift bunks a 
wood stove in the center no end of details. 

A couple of days' lively work did the trick. But when the main 
crowd arrived I wasn't sorry to hear that a few had chosen to stick 
by their ships. We had enough confusion already. The captains 
didn't even try to manage their men, seeming only too glad to shift 
responsibility on us. To bring some sort of order out of the mess, I 
arranged for Macllhenny to be given a week's rations for each man. 
He was to cook it for them as needed. Then I explained to the mob 
that this would be the week-by-week routine so long as they were 
with us. 

Satisfied that things were going as well as could be expected, I 
left Tom and Fred in charge and started east over the ice with some 
natives at four o'clock one morning, nominally to make arrange- 
ments about feeding the crews of the "Fearless" and "Newport," 
actually to get a look at that mysterious craft stuck in the ice far 
beyond. We made the seventy miles in twelve hours. 

My first act, after greeting the skipper of the "Newport," was 
to borrow his glasses and climb into the crow's nest. . . . 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 203 

She was the "Navarch." I'd never forget her. 

Calling together some of my Eskimos, I sent them back with 
word for Tom and Fred to let me have all the sleds and men they 
could get hold of in a hurry. 

While they were gone, John Thomas, mate of the "Newport," 
made a hurried trip out to the "Navarch' ' to see in what condition 
the men were and tell them our plans. 

"They're all in pretty good shape," Thomas reported, "only it 
looks like we're in for a mite of a row if we touch anything in the 
hold." 

"Did you tell 'em we had to divide the grub among all these 
other crews?" 

"Sure. But they figure the 'Navarch' and everything on her be- 
longs to them. They say they're going to salvage the ship." 

I had to laugh. They'd be lucky to salvage themselves. Just the 
same there was a chance for trouble, at least at first, and Thomas 
and I made our plans accordingly. 

Within three days seventeen sleds arrived, with more on the way. 
When our first teams reached the "Navarch" the six men on her 
refused to let any of us aboard, but finally agreed to talk things 
over with Thomas and me alone. Once on deck, I congratulated 
them on being alive and for a while we had quite a sociable chat. 
They said that at one time the "Navarch" drifted almost free; 
that if they had known how to start her engines they might have 
reached the Point long ago. But the ice had closed in again worse 
than ever. So here they were, growled one of the men whom I'd 
marked for a trouble-maker before, and the ship belonged to them 
and what were we going to do about it? 

I explained how we had suddenly been called on to feed several 
crews during the winter, and said we couldn't let them go hungry 
when the "Navarch" had so much food in her hold. 

Most of the men grew reasonable and all but the trouble-maker 
seemed anxious enough to come ashore. He claimed now that he 
owned the ship himself. What was more, he'd kill anybody who 



204 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

took a thing off her. He was going on at a great rate when I nodded 
to Thomas, and before the fellow finished telling all he'd do to us 
we had him in irons. 

There was no further trouble. 

The first teams took the men part way to the "Newport," leav- 
ing them on the ice in charge of two Eskimos for fear they'd wander 
off and get lost. Then back came these teams to the "Navarch." 
By now we had the other sleds loaded with provisions ready to 
start a systematic shuttle service for salvaging all the provisions 
possible before the wind shifted. 

All but two of the men we had left on the ice arrived at the 
"Newport" in good shape that first night. The others got in later, 
and considerably the worse for wear. One was the elderly Chinese 
cook, the other, an old Norwegian named Pete, well over seventy 
and utterly unable to travel. 

Luckily for Pete, he had been placed in charge of one of my most 
reliable natives, Long John Ungertegera. Long John stuck to Pete 
like a brother. Finally he peeled off his deerskin parka to wrap 
around the shivering old man and spent the rest of the night run- 
ning around in a cotton undershirt to keep from freezing himself. 
They staggered in about dawn the Eskimo carrying old Pete on 
his back. 

During the next few days and nights our men, reinforced now 
by several more teams, ran six round trips to the "Navarch." They 
made quite a sight. Twenty-six sleds strung out across the ice! 

After the last pound of provisions had been removed, we looked 
longingly at all the coal in her hold. Eighty tons of it, and not a 
chance of getting it ashore. 

However, the "Navarch" still had stuff aboard that could be 
used for trade. So, after talking it over, Thomas and I called all the 
Eskimos together. They'd done such a good job, we told them, that 
anything else they could get from the "Navarch" would be theirs. 

For two more days and nights they worked like mad. It was 
amazing the variety of things they managed to get out. On their 
final trip some of them even brought a huge oak sideboard that had 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 205 

adorned the "Navarch's" after cabin, painfully lugging it over the 
ice lashed on two sleds. On learning that they intended to take it the 
remaining seventy miles to Utkiavie, I thought them very foolish 
indeed until I discovered that they intended it to be a personal 
present for me. 

It stands in my home here today, I have only to glance at it as 
I write to be reminded afresh of the "Navarch" and those sixteen 
shipmates lost during our terrible trek over the ice. 

The Eskimos were lucky to get that sideboard out when they 
did, for a few hours later the wind changed and blew the "Navarch" 
away. Still solid in the pack, apparently intact, she seemed good 
for some time yet. But watching her drift away I was thankful to 
be on the "Fearless." 

Here I stayed until all the able-bodied men, including a few mem- 
bers of the "Fearless" and "Newport" crews, had left. Then, wrap- 
ping the Chinaman and old Pete in the heaviest deerskins I could 
find, I put them on the one remaining dog sled and we, too, headed 
for the Station seventy miles away. I counted on three days of nec- 
essarily slow travel. We made it in two, but not without our trou- 
bles. 

Everything went fine until we were paralleling the beach within 
a few miles of the Station. Then we ran onto a snowdrift in the dark 
and there was the devil to pay. It was only about a foot high, but 
it started at a point and spread out like a wedge. When we took 
it with the dogs on the run, the hard edges forced our runners apart, 
snapping off the stanchions and depositing old Pete and the China- 
man in a heap on the ice. 

A case for major repairs, it meant searching the beach in the 
dark for small pieces of wood, fitting the stanchions back into the 
mortise-holes along the bed of the sled, then lashing my wood to 
each broken piece like a splint. All this was done to the accompani- 
ment of comments in Norwegian and Chinese, as my cargo of old 
men hopped around on the ice to keep warm. 

Sometime during the night we arrived at the Station where Tom 
and Fred were thoughtful enough to let me go to sleep in blissful 



206 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

ignorance of brewing trouble. 

It came next morning, with a delegation from the bunkhouse. 

"It's this 'ere Macllhenny, what's doing the cooking," their 
spokesman announced. "He's holding out on us. So help me he is, 
Charlie." 

I looked the men over a hard-bitten, ill-clad bunch and re- 
minded them that not every shipwrecked crew had regular food, 
let alone somebody to cook it for them. But since they thought 
they had a grievance I promised to look into matters. 

Mac, of course, hadn't deliberately held out on anyone. What 
he had done was to give the men only as much as he thought they 
needed at one time. 

After that it was arranged for each man to get his entire week's 
rations direct and turn over to Mac only the amount he wanted 
cooked. Then if he was short at the end of the week it was his own 
fault. 

The food question settled, those of us in charge turned to more 
important problems. 

Talking things over with the captains and Macllhenny, we de- 
cided to send two messengers overland in different directions to let 
the outside world know that the crews were safe. We finally chose 
a man named Charles Walker for one, and for the other George 
Tilton, second mate of the "Belvedere." 

Walker made Herschel Island, then pushed southeast to Fott 
McPherson, thereafter being passed from post to post by the Hud- 
son's Bay Company until he finally reached Edmonton. 

For Tilton I built a special sled and hired an Eskimo to take 
him as far as Point Hope. Somehow he got from there to Kotzebue 
Sound; then, working through the mountains by way of the Buck- 
land River, to Norton Sound. After resting a while in the Army 
Post at St. Michaels he crossed to the Yukon, then the Kuskoquim 
and on over the divide to Katmal. Here he found an old dory and 
in this fragile craft crossed wide Skellikoff Strait to Kodiak Island, 
where at last he caught a small steamer to Vancouver Island. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 207 

Both men reached civilization in April within a few days of each 
other. 

Nowadays, such journeys in winter would be considered almost 
unbelievable sagas of the North. They were all in the day's work 
then. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII 

As WINTER deepened fuel became our big worry. We had barely 
enough coal to cook with, and there was very little driftwood left 
along the beaches. 

Matters took a grotesque turn when Baby's old mother, who 
often camped at her son's grave on moonlit nights, complained that 
somebody had stolen the great heap of driftwood which had covered 
the coffin ever since Baby's funeral. 

Shortly afterwards, one of the natives who worked for us died. 
As usual, we furnished a coffin and all new clothing for the burial. 
A few days later the man's wife declared that the mittens left on 
her dead husband had just been sold in the village. The white men, 
she said, had stolen them. 

"What makes you think they're the same mittens?" I asked. 

Because their pattern was unusual. She'd made them herself and 
would know them anywhere. 

Just to satisfy her we went out to the graveyard and examined 
the corpse. She was right. Not only were the mittens gone but the 
clothing as well. All I could do was furnish a complete new outfit 
and have her and her family dress the body again, with orders to 
nail the box securely. 

Two days later she came back in despair. They'd done it again. 
Only this time they'd rolled the naked body out in the snow and 
even taken the coffin, probably for firewood. 

I said a few things under my breath, then walked over to the 
bunkhouse and repeated them aloud. Of course the men denied 
everything, and while I knew they were lying, I had no proof. After 
that the whole graveyard was gradually denuded of burial racks, 
broken sleds anything made of wood. 

And there was little I could do about it. The men were a tough 
lot, to begin with. Their clothing, too thin and worn for hard out- 

208 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 209 

door work in winter, furnished a fine excuse for loafing, and it 
would be some time before the old women of the village could make 
up enough new skin outfits to go around. Even blankets were lack- 
ing. The best we could do was try and keep all hands as busy as 
possible. 

One thing that helped was the inauguration of "quilting parties" 
at the old Refuge Station. Mac had brought north plenty of cotton 
batting for fixing his bird specimens. I had bolts of print calico. 
Using the cotton for stuffing, the men finally turned out enough 
quilts so that everyone could at least sleep warm. 

Things went better then until the day when the men, crowding 
in for their tobacco ration, managed to steal a lot of other things 
off the shelves. Next "tobacco day" only one man was admitted at 
a time, given his tobacco and shoved out again. I checked the names 
off on my book, while just inside the door stood Fred and another 
man, each armed with a pick handle. 

"Anybody showing up before his name is called will get a busted 
head. All right, now, who's first?" 

It worked. 

Along in January one of the Eskimos reported that from the 
high land at Skull Bluff forty miles south he had made out a ship 
in the ice far to the southwest. I told him he must be "seeing things." 
But a couple of days later the mysterious vessel was only twelve 
miles south of us and slowly drifting along up the coast. 

My first look convinced me that it was I who was "seeing things." 

We immediately sent some of our men out to her. When they got 
back next day, with their sleds badly smashed by the ice, it seemed 
that my eyesight wasn't so bad but that the North must be doing 
things to my reason. The last I'd seen of that ship she was a hun- 
dred miles or so east of the Point yet here she came up from the 
south, and only a mile or so out. 

What followed was still more incredible. On a Saturday, when 
she had reached a point directly abreast the Station, suddenly the 
pack surged inshore, crushed her sides, cutting her bottom almost 
in two, and finally shoving what was left of the old "Navarch" high 



210 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

on the beach, as if to say, 

"Here's your coal." 

We got her two whaleboats off the davits and ashore late that 
afternoon, then spent the evening organizing our Eskimos so as to 
start hauling coal early Monday morning. Providence had delivered 
that coal at our front door. We'd take no chance of losing it now. 
Because the bunkhouse crowd weren't properly clad for such work, 
we didn't even ask them to help. 1 turned in that night easier in mind 
than for weeks. The fuel problem was solved. 

Sometime before midnight there came a tremendous pounding, 
and shouts of "Fire! Fire!" 

Out we tumbled, half asleep. The Station seemed all right. But 
down on the beach an ominous glow brightened and flared into 
licking crimson tongues. Before we could get any sort of fire brigade 
working, the flaming "Navarch" was doomed. So we just stood 
around and watched her go coal and all. 

It appeared that two sailors from the bunkhouse had "walked 
out to the ship earlier in the evening and built a fire in her blubber 
room, using bits of wood and straw from the fo'castle mattresses 
for fuel. 

When I questioned the two idiots next day, their excuse was that 
they were trying to find some rope to make pads for their worn-out 
boots and had built the fire solely to furnish light. 

This sounded pretty thin. But it was hard to conceive of any of 
our "guests" deliberately setting the vessel afire. Why should they? 
We wanted that coal for them. They had nothing to gain by de- 
stroying their own winter comfort. 

I finally concluded that the pair were merely plain garden- 
variety fools, and from all the advice showered on me by their 
comrades, I think the others agreed. Suggested punishment ranged 
from flogging to hanging. But since none of those things could re- 
place the fuel, in the end I did nothing at all, merely announcing to 
the angry crowd: 

"Whenever you fellows feel chilly, you can warm up by giving 
*em a licking." 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 211 

So far as I know they never "took it out" on the guilty pair. 

February brought the three coldest days of the year also a 
sled bearing an enormous wooden box weighing one hundred fifty 
pounds, and a colored man too fat to waddle. 

Dragging this strange load up the coast came the mate of the 
"Belvedere," Jim Wing, whose long nose was so badly frozen when 
he arrived that eventually he lost a quarter-inch off the end. The 
negro, he explained, through chattering teeth, was the "Orca's" 
cook. 

After thawing the men out and giving first aid to Jim's nose ? we 
were naturally curious to learn what was in the big box that he'd 
taken such pains about. 

Jim was as curious as we. He had no idea what it contained. 
Somebody on the "Ocra" had just asked him to take it along, he 
said, telling him that it would probably be well worth his while. 

With much grunting and cussing we finally got it into the Sta- 
tion. Then all hands crowded around close while Jim eagerly pried 
open his unknown treasure. 

When he discovered what he'd lugged clear from the Sea Horse 
Islands at fifty-six below zero, to purify the Station atmosphere 
would have taken more than that box of Bibles put aboard at San 
Francisco by the Salvation Army. 

The next few weeks were busy ones for all but the bunkhouse 
crew. The rest of us were up to our necks in boat building and tak- 
ing care of the meat which Eskimo hunters began hauling in. Teams 
arrived every day now bringing from ten to twenty caribou at a 
time some from a distance of fifty miles. We never had so much 
meat. Every icehouse was full, and what we didn't need had to be 
sledded seventy miles east to the other crews stuck in the ice. 

About this time my old friend Mungie arrived after a long so- 
journ at Herschel Island, and with him came another Utkiavie 
native named Pisa who said he had stopped off at Flaxman Island 
till the food ran out. 

We all knew Pisa as a good whaleman. He had worked in our 
boats before. Now, however, we regarded him suspiciously, not 



212 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

knowing whether or not to believe ugly tales that had come to us 
earlier that winter. He was said to have been flogged and run out 
of Herschel by the crews of the ships there on account of getting 
drunk and beating to death a little girl he had adopted. 

Just the same, Tom was anxious to hire him again for spring 
whaling. If the rumors were false, he argued, we'd be losing a good 
man all for nothing; if true, it wasn't entirely Pisa's fault. The 
crews had no business selling him liquor to get crazy on. In the 
end, we decided to take Pisa on again, let him live in one of our 
small houses as usual, but watch him like a hawk. 

That was the situation when Lieutenant Jarvis and Dr. Call 
of the cutter "Bear" came mushing up the coast. My first thought 
was that they had been wrecked and were coming for aid. As a 
matter of fact, it was the other way around. They were there to 
help us. 

According to Jarvis, one of the whalers which got back to 'Frisco 
the fall before had reported various vessels caught in the ice. The 
ship owners, not knowing that we were taking care of the crews, per- 
suaded the Government to send out a relief expedition, President 
McKinley finally calling for volunteers from the Revenue Service. 
Jarvis was practically drafted to lead the expedition. Lieutenant 
Berthof and Dr. Call volunteered. 

Fitted out with provisions for twelve months, the "Bear" left 
San Francisco for Cape Vancouver, where Jarvis and the others 
bought a sled and dog team and struck out north for distant Point 
Barrow, meeting our messenger, George Tilton, somewhere in 
Norton Sound. 

From Tilton they learned that the crews were safe but doubtless 
facing slow starvation. That was enough to keep Jarvis headed 
north. Reaching Cape Nome (there was no settlement there yet), 
he induced an Eskimo named Charlie Antisarlook, who owned 
reindeer, to come along with his herd. At Port Clarence they added 
Mr. Lopp to the party, along with a lot of deer he owned. Still more 
animals were picked up at Cape Prince of Wales. 

Jarvis now dispatched Lieutenant Berthof to Point Hope to take 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 213 

care of any of our men he might want to send back along the coast. 
Then, with Lopp in charge of all the deer, they drove across Kotze- 
bue Sound to Cape Krusenstern and over a pass in the mountains 
to just below Point Lay. Jarvis and Dr. Call here left the others 
and pushed ahead to let us know that meat was on the way. Lopp 
and Charlie arrived with their deer two days later. 

This whole expedition, from the fitting out of the "Bear" to the 
final delivery of the deer to us, upheld the finest traditions of 
Arctic rescue work. But perhaps it was just as well that Lopp 
started back to Wales with the dog team almost at once, making 
the seven-hundred-fifty-mile trip in twenty-one days. Had he 
stayed around longer he might have realized that he'd really been 
driving "coals to Newcastle," so to speak, because of all the fresh 
meat our Eskimos had been bringing in for weeks. 

Jarvis knew, though. That was one reason he refused to let 
Charlie Antisarlook kill more than the first two or three. The other 
reason was that they proved to be nothing but skin and bones after 
their long trip, so couldn't be used for food. 

"Too bad Jarvis has to kill the whole herd," observed Mac, put- 
ting on a long face. 

"Why should he?" I asked, innocently. 

"Otherwise, how's he going to report that he got 'em here just 
in time to keep us from starving?" 

I thought this a pretty good one, and passed it on to Jarvis. 

It was the first time I ever saw that fine but literal-minded officer 
really mad. 



CHAPTER XXXIX 

NOT that it lasted long. In fact, after a thorough canvas of the 
situation, Jarvis asked me to stay in charge of everything. 

I appreciated his trust, of course, but felt that as the official 
representative of the Government, he was the logical one to take 
over. What I didn't say was that I was sick of all the wrangling 
and needed a rest. Still he insisted. And after he had promised to 
use his official position in any way I wished, there seemed nothing 
left but to carry on. 

One thing I had wanted to do for a long time was get the men 
out of their filthy bunkhouse where they lived packed together 
like animals. Only a kind Providence had kept contagion away so 
far. I had suggested to Mac and Marsh several times that they 
rearrange their own spare space so as to take some of the crowd. 
The others could be moved into an empty warehouse. But some- 
how these hints never "took" until Jarvis backed me up. 

Next, with his help I organized ball teams and for the first time 
all hands took regular exercise. We made them. If the weather was 
too bad, they had to take walks. The United States Government 
through Charlie Brower so ordered. 

Since most of the men still lacked adequate clothing, Jarvis now 
suggested that the Eskimos might be persuaded to make a "tar- 
paulin muster," each native throwing in whatever clothing he could 
spare. 

I didn't know how the Eskimos would take to the idea of helping 
white men who had stooped so low as to rob their very graveyard. 
But I did my best and was fairly overwhelmed by their generous 
response. Even Pisa contributed his part. I was careful to take 
down the names of all donors, however, and when the "Bear" came 
later, we saw that each native was well rewarded. They never for- 
got that. 

214 




A PERMANENT ESKIMO IGLOO MADE OF SODS, WITH THE RIBS OF A WHALE AT 

ENTRANCE 




A PERMANENT ESKIMO IGLOO, WITH AN ENTRANCE THROUGH THE TOP 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 215 

Our own crowd had fairly good whaling that spring. We even 
outfitted one boat for some of our wrecked men and the single 
small whale they managed by some miracle to catch pleased them 
as much as though they'd made a fortune in bone. 

Before I realized it, spring was over ? summer slipping by. And 
presently, here lay the "Bear" off the Station. We had intended to 
get the men aboard her at once, but suddenly the wind changed 
and the ice came piling in to cause a two-week delay. The u Bear's" 
crew even unloaded all their supplies on the ice, fully expecting her 
to be crushed before their eyes. That, I think, was the closest shave 
the old cutter ever had. 

But after buckling her engine-room floor, the pressure eased off , 
the pack broke up and floated offshore, and next day I found myself 
headed for home in a ship so crowded that there wasn't room for 
all to sleep. 

The reason I had to go out with the crowd was that I had kept 
all the accounts and now none of the men would settle with any- 
body else. But I didn't mind going outside for a rest. The Station 
would be in safe hands with Tom Gordon in charge. Fred would 
be there, too. And for good measure I had hired a couple of new 
men, Jack Hadley and John Greubin, to stay with them for a year. 

However disagreeable the slow voyage south on a cutter badly 
overloaded with fault-finding men, that trip was to give me a ring- 
side seat for a bit of history in the making. 

The love of gold may be the root of all evil, but from what I 
witnessed when the "Bear" called at Kotzebue Sound, the rumor 
of gold is worse. It showed itself in a mushroom growth of tents 
and galvanized houses scattered over the beaches, with hundreds 
of homesick men and women milling about aimlessly. 

And all because of fake rumors of gold that had reached them 
during the summer. A ship had hauled up nuggets on her anchor 
flukes. The Eskimos at Kotzebue were using lumps of gold for 
bullets. Gold lay around everywhere. All you had to do was pick it 
up according to rumor. 

With visions of another great strike far to the east the Klon- 



216 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

dike rush was then in full swing excited men and women, old and 
young, had sacrificed everything they had and flocked to bleak 
Kotzebue and bleaker disillusionment. I talked with one helpless 
old couple who had sold their home in Pennsylvania and come all 
this way expecting to pick up enough gold in a day to make them 
rich. 

It was a crime! 

But later we touched at Cape Nome to land Charlie Antisarlook, 
the Eskimo deer-herder, and here I saw a cheerier side to history 
in the making. 

Shortly before our arrival a man at near by Anvil Creek had 
struck gold. Actual gold! Already six other whites were on the job, 
all too busy even to come aboard the "Bear." 

Pretty soon I was as excited as they. But Captain Tuttle and 
Lieutenant Jarvis finally talked me out of accepting Charlie Anti- 
sarlook's invitation to spend the winter with him and his wife, so 
that was that. At any rate, we carried first news of this bona fide 
gold strike to St. Michaels and so were instrumental in starting 
the historic rush to Anvil Creek. 

But when the "Bear" headed for 'Frisco, I'm sure that not even 
the most imaginative among us dreamed that a brand new town 
called Nome would shortly sprout on what was then barren tundra. 

All the way down there had been trouble with the shipwrecked 
men. At first the officers had decided that, since lack of space 
prevented all from sleeping at one time, they would divide them 
into watches, like any regular crew. It didn't work. Those with a 
chance to sleep refused to turn out, at which the others raised all 
kinds of Cain. 

When matters reached a point little short of mutiny, Captain 
Tuttle had the crowd lined up on deck. 

"Everybody willing to obey my orders stand one side," he 
barked. 

Only six moved. 

"All right, men." 

Before they knew what was happening the rest were chained 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 217 

along the rail, to stay there until they "saw the light." A few 
hours of this brought most to their senses, but some we carried 
clear to Seattle in irons. 

I wasn't sorry to see the last of them. A hard lot! But no worse 
than the average whaling crew on whom the gentler half of civi- 
lization used to depend for corset stays. 

After talking everything over at our office at San Francisco, it 
was finally decided that I should go to Washington that winter 
and see what the Government would do to compensate us for having 
taken care of the men before Jarvis and his "relief expedition 3 * ar- 
rived. From then on it was Uncle Sam's headache, anyhow. 

But first I went home to New Jersey, stopping in Ohio to visit 
Mr. Stevenson and my two daughters. Mother and father were 
quite upset when I arrived without the girls. 

"We want them with us/ 7 they said. 

So my sister brought them on and they stayed with their grand- 
parents until I came north again. Then she took them herself and 
raised them in West Orange, a happy arrangement all around. 
Eventually, one married. The other became a teacher. 

In some respects my work in Washington proved harder than 
hunting whales off the pack. AH winter and spring Jarvis and I 
labored in the offices of the Revenue Service, adjusting prices, pre- 
paring claims, and hoping the Government would see fit to reim- 
burse the Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Company. At last 
the Government did and in addition awarded me three thousand 
dollars "for extraordinary services." 

This last took me completely by surprise. I had only done what 
most men would have done under the circumstances. Just the same, 
I accepted the gift, finished up one other important piece of Wash- 
ington business, and by the middle of May was sailing out of San 
Francisco for the Arctic. 

Our tender, the schooner "Bonanza," also had a newly married 
couple aboard, Mr. and Mrs. Spriggs, who were going to Point 
Barrow as missionaries. I don't think they enjoyed the first few 
days of their honeymoon. If there's anything hard on romance it's 



218 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

seasickness. But the Spriggs weren't the only ones under the 
weather. 

I hadn't been feeling well before we sailed, but thought it noth- 
ing serious until the third day out Then I knew I was in for some- 
thing. So did everyone else. 

There was no end of doctors aboard the "Bonanza," The 
skipper had his book of rules and dosed me from the ship's medicine 
chest whenever I felt too weak to resist. Mr. O'Brien, the mate, had 
his homeopathic sugar pills which he secretly fed me to counteract 
the skipper's medicine. Unfortunately, Mr. Spriggs had taken a 
short course in some kind of doctoring and now and then got in 
his work. The only point on which all of us agreed was the nature 
of my illness. I had seen too many cases of typhoid fever to be 
mistaken. 

What bothered me most as I lay in my bunk through that darkly 
remembered period was the important appointment I had secured 
just before quitting Washington. For with the 1900 census just 
around the corner, I had been given the job of census taker for the 
northern part of Alaska and the threat of having to give that up 
did more to keep me going than all the medicine put together. 

By the time the "Bonanza" had crawled into Port Clarence and 
anchored among the whalers, I was able to lie bundled up on deck 
and enjoy the astonishment of several old friends, none of whom 
recognized me at first. 

All the time, however, I was gaining strength that would be 
needed if I were to do anything with the census. Some days later, 
on reaching Point Hope where my territory was to begin, I felt well 
enough to make a try at it. 

A Dr. Driggs was in charge of the mission just north of the 
Point, and there I made my headquarters for several days, the 
doctor often accompanying me as I worked around the immediate 
vicinity. All went smoothly until I tried to interview a drunken 
white man known as Wild Jim, who answered question number 
one by leaping to his feet and offering to fight the whole Govern- 
ment. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 219 

Side-stepping his first rush, I was trying to recall the official 
rules for handling such a case when Dr. Driggs demonstrated the 
best Arctic method. An ex-athlete, the doctor had his man down in 
no time and, holding him down, made him tell me every last thing 
I had to know. At the end, Jim got up and brushed himself off and 
we all parted the best of friends. 

Before finishing in the Point Hope vicinity, I hired some Eskimos 
to paddle me eight miles south to the end of a lagoon where some 
Portuguese were living with their Eskimo wives. The settlement 
was known among ship captains as "Jabbertown." Here I found 
my old friend Antone Bettes who had worked for us at Point Barrow 
three years before. And above the noise of all hands jabbering at 
once, Antone introduced me as "Mister De Charles, coining to take 
the centuries." 

It wasn't hard to elicit vital statistics from "Jabbertown" except 
in one case. Tom George, a colored fellow from the West Indies, 
wouldn't answer anything. Finally, I got him off a way from the 
babble. 

"You needn't tell me anything/' I said, folding up the sheet and 
putting it in my pocket, "but a smart man like you must have some 
good reason for keeping still. I'd like to find out what it is, that's 
all." 

Then he opened up. And the reason he gave seemed to me pretty 
sound at the time, and does still. Several years before, he had been 
at Herschel Island. When his time was up he naturally wanted to 
go back to San Francisco on the tender, along with some of the 
other crew members. But he was a good boat-steerer and the cap- 
tain asked him to stay. He refused. He was sick of whaling. The 
captain then fired a lot of questions at him, just as I had, and 
finally showed him where to make his mark on a piece of paper. 

So he made his mark, and it turned out to be the worst thing 
he ever did in his life. It forced him to stay on that ship two years 
more. He'd never made marks or answered white man's questions 
since. 

I explained that "the centuries" had nothing to do with signing 



220 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

ship's articles, and besides, he didn't have to make his mark for 
Mr. De Charles or anyone else. 

With the mark eliminated, he readily gave me all the routine 
information I wanted. 

The "Bonanza" weighed anchor early next morning and worked 
her way slowly up the coast, putting in at Wevok and Icy Cape 
where I listed the people. There were several settlements farther 
along, but I decided they could be visited that winter just as well. 
So, from Icy Cape we never stopped until safely anchored off our 
Station. 

I couldn't blame Tom and Fred for wanting to take their year 
outside as soon as the "Bear" arrived, and when she showed up a 
few days later, now in charge of Captain Jarvis, it tickled me all 
the gifts he handed out to the natives as extra pay for having helped 
us with the wrecked men. 

That done, Jarvis came ashore to pay the Station a visit. I met 
him on the beach and we walked up together. As we neared several 
small houses occupied by some of our Eskimos, I saw Tom come 
racing full-speed over the sandspit towards us. 

Now, Tom had always liked Jarvis well enough but it seemed a 
bit strange that he should suddenly break his neck to say "Hello." 
Then when he came up, he made some inane excuse to steer us 
around one of the small houses instead of past it on our way to the 
Station. 

If Jarvis noticed anything peculiar in this he gave no sign but 
remained at the Station an hour or so, smoking and "gamming" 
as usual. When he left, Tom stood in the doorway watching until 
he had passed the last of the little houses. 

"Now," I exploded, "maybe you'll tell me what in Sam Hill this 
is all about!" 

The answer came reluctantly, in one word, 

"Pisa." 



CHAPTER XL 

SUDDENLY I remembered Jarvis remarking about a fine rifle he'd 
brought for "that Pisa chap of yours. Where is he, anyhow?" and 
Tom turning it aside with something about Pisa being sick. 

What had happened in my absence, as Tom told me now, was 
this. WTien Pisa came back from Flaxman Island after being run 
out of Herschel by the ships' crews, it wasn't lack of food that had 
prevented his staying longer at Flaxman. He'd lied about that. 

According to the half-blind woman he brought with him, she was 
the sole survivor of two Nubook families that had been camping 
on Flaxman Island when he stopped there. Pisa, she said, quarreled 
with them over meat, and a few nights later shot both families 
while they slept eight people in all, including three children 
then forced her to accompany him back to Utkiavie. 

For a long while the woman had feared Pisa would kill her if 
she ever told, so nothing was known of the wholesale slaughter 
until a few weeks ago. It must have been while I was down with 
typhoid that she got away from Pisa and made a clean breast of 
everything in the village. 

"Do they believe her?" I asked. 

Tom shrugged. "Some of the relatives of those two families have 
gone to Flaxman Island to see if it's true." 

"Then he's safe enough until they get back, anyhow." 

"Maybe. But the others are watching him all the time and he 
knows it. When he saw you and Jarvis today he thought sure the 
Law was coming to get him." 

"So that was why you 1" 

"Sure. He was waiting in the doorway with his rifle. A boy told 
me he heard him say he'd kill you both if you tried anything, see? 
That's why I sort of steered you around his place." 

"And Jarvis doesn't know?" I asked, after a pause. 

221 



222 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

"Well," Tom replied, "I figured why bother Jarvis? This is an 
Eskimo affair. You know how the natives are about these things, 
Charlie." 

I knew, all right. But when Tom and Fred left on the "Bear" 
early next morning, I only hoped the rest of us wouldn't be drawn 
into the mess. A clean-cut Eskimo feud was a racial institution, 
but a crazed killer was everybody's affair. 

The last doubt of Pisa's guilt was swept away after the ice made 
that fall and the investigating committee got back from Flaxman 
Island with their report. 

They had found the eight bodies, just as the woman said. 

The thing to be decided now was not whether Pisa should die, 
but who was the proper one to kill him. The whole village held a 
big consultation. It was finally decided that, since both families 
were practically wiped out, the brother of the first man slain would 
be the logical executioner. The fact that his name, Elebrah, was 
the same as one of the murdered men undoubtedly helped justify 
the choice. 

All this time Pisa was living in one of our small Company houses 
and threatening to shoot anybody who came near. The woman who 
had told on him was there too. That was something I never could 
fathom. Perhaps he didn't know she'd told. Or possibly he was too 
muddle-headed to comprehend. I think it more likely that he used 
some strange hold over her in order to insure a necessary food and 
water supply. 

At any rate, she carried him all he needed, and when he slept, 
if he ever did, she kept watch outside the door. Most of the time, 
however, he sat there on a bunk, day and night, with his loaded 
rifle and a hunting knife at his side. 

A situation like this, of course, couldn't go on forever. The whole 
village grew jittery. No one knew whom he'd try to kill next. 

Things came to a showdown one November afternoon when a 
lot of Eskimos stopped at the Station to inform me that they were 
going to get Pisa and take him away for Elebrah to execute. 

"Go ahead, boys," I agreed, thankful it was their job, not mine. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 223 

They hung around the rest of the afternoon, talking big but do- 
ing little. Finally I lost patience and calling Jack Hadley told him 
that if anything happened to me he was to take charge. 

"What are you going to do, Charlie?" 

"Somebody's got to get that crazy killer away from here." 

He saw that I meant it, and kept still That was lucky. It 
wouldn't have taken much argument on Jack's part to make me 
think twice which was the one thing I couldn't afford to do. 

Having firmly decided that if Pisa made a move towards his gun 
I'd kill him first, I got my revolver and started for the little house. 

It was worse than the time Con, Pat and I had gone out to get 
the Eskimo who had murdered poor Portuguese Joe. Then we could 
keep our man in sight, watch every move he made as we drew near. 

This was different. The little house, ominously quiet, brought to 
mind everything I'd ever heard about the diabolical cunning of 
demented killers. A dozen times I would have sneaked away except 
for the Eskimos watching from well back. There was no easing of 
the strain even after I gained the comparative shelter of the side 
wall, for just around the corner was the door. And back of that 

door 

For a moment or two I crouched under a window sill, somewhat 
astonished that nothing had happened. Then came the steadying 
Bought what a fool I'd look, hunched over this way, with a 
cocked revolver, if the place turned out to be empty. Why not? 
How else account for the dead silence? Pisa could have picked me 
off a dozen times if he were there. 

Holding firm to this vastly reassuring idea, I walked around 
front, pushed the door open and jumped sideways. Not a sound 
came out of the blackness. Certain now that Pisa had escaped, I 
was about to step inside when someone landed squarely on my 
shoulders, pulling me over backwards, then jumped through the 
doorway and leapt like a cat on Pisa. In one motion, it seemed, he 
yanked the man out of his bunk to the floor. Then he sat on him 
until other Eskimos came running to help. ^ ^ 

The one who had jumped me was a kid of seventeen. Hearing m 



224 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

the village that the Eskimos were letting me go for Pisa, he had 
run all the way, arriving just in time to prevent the white man from 
mixing in a strictly native feud. 

They tied Pisa hand and foot and I followed the crowd as he was 
carried across the lagoon lashed to a sled. At first he kept yelling 
at me to stop them. When I took no notice, he quieted down and 
only spoke once more. It was while Elebrah was taking careful aim 
that Pisa flung them his final defiance product, no doubt, of a 
distorted brain. 

He was a hunter, he growled. A hunter. They'd never kill him 
with one bullet. 

They didn't, either. Elebrah shot the bound man like a mad dog 
but it took a second bullet to finish the job. 



CHAPTER XLI 

TOM and Fred came back on the "Bonanza" the next summer, and 
when the schooner turned south again she was carrying out not 
only Jack Hadley and John Greubin but a cargo of bone and furs 
which represented the best season the Cape Smythe Whaling and 
Trading Company had enjoyed. 

Thirty-five thousand pounds of bone alone! All hands were 
jubilant. And with the villagers still under the festive influence of 
their greatest whale dance in years, it seemed to whites and natives 
alike that life in the Arctic was very kind indeed. 

No whale dance I had witnessed could compare in magnitude 
and hospitality with the one just given. The whaling had hardly 
ended when messengers set out carrying dance invitations to the 
farthest inland tribes. 

It was on July twentieth that our guests from "the sticks" arrived 
all at one time in about fifty oomiaks. They landed at Berinak 
where there was good fishing in the lagoon, and set up camp. Only 
a small group of us, including Mungie, was on hand to act as a 
welcoming committee. 

"Where are those messengers of ours?" I asked. "Weren't they 
supposed to come back with the crowd?" 

Mungie explained that we mustn't ask about them. 

"Why?" 

Because the messengers were supposed to be smuggled into the 
dance house without being seen. 

"Why?" I persisted. 

Mungie eyed me in amazement, but all he could say was that 
this had always been the custom. It was bad form for us even to 
look the strangers over too closely. 

I did, anyhow. Some I recognized as regular summer visitors, 
but most had come from so far up the rivers that their young people 

225 



226 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

had never seen a white man before. I couldn't get anywhere near 
the children, and quit trying after the first kid let out a screech 
and ran for its life. 

A foot race took place a couple of days later, our two best run- 
ners going to Berinak for the start. The rest of the village waited 
at the dance house for a good view of the finish. It wasn't much of 
a race from our point of view. The visitors won hands down, their 
first man coming in a mile ahead of their second, and both as fresh 
as if they'd just started. After an embarrassing wait, our pair 
finally trailed in with tongues hanging out. 

The main body of visitors followed, two hundred or more stretch- 
ing out in a long line. Some bore mysterious packages on their 
backs, others dragged sleds piled high with skins. Everyone was 
dressed in his worst. I never saw a more disreputable looking crowd 
nor one whose tatters covered more suppressed excitement. 

Just above the Station they were met by a picked group of vil- 
lage men naked to the waist. Each wore a loonskin on his head and 
carried a few arrows and a bow. Suddenly they gave a yell and 
started shooting over the heads of the strangers. Their arrows 
gone, they then retreated to the dance house where the rest of our 
crowd was congregated, still a bit put out over the result of the 
foot race. 

All this time our messengers, who had supposedly returned with 
the guests, were nowhere to be seen. They'd have a hard job sneak- 
ing into the dance house now, I thought, unless they, too, had 
dressed in old clothes, hoping to mingle with the guests and escape 
detection. 

I was scanning the crowd with this in mind when a riot broke out 
around the doorway. A group of visitors, laden with rolls of deer- 
skins, were demanding entrance, the guards steadfastly refusing to 
let them through. Higher and higher rose angry voices until, with 
final protesting shrieks, the guests were forced to unroll their deer- 
skins and there inside lay our messengers nearly smothered by 
heat and stifled laughter. 

Mungie came by grinning broadly. An old trick, he said. These 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 227 

inland people must have thought we'd never heard of it. 

Our "home folks" furnished the music that first day, visitors 
doing the dancing. A man and woman would enter and dance , then 
loudly announce what they had brought for the one who had in- 
vited them. After which the recipient joined in and all three danced 
together. 

Later, the women disappeared to make ready the feast mostly 
whale meat and seal. Many of the inland people, unfamiliar with 
such delicacies, couldn't get the stuff down. Lucky for me that Fd 
learned to take my muctuc like any coast native, for this enabled 
me to join the crowd in making fun of our visitors. Their only come- 
back was to hint broadly at what they expected in return for their 
presents. 

Since it was a matter of tribal pride that visitors be satisfied or 
else given back their own presents a most humiliating procedure 
our people went to ridiculous lengths to meet the demands. Many 
sold their whalebone to provide needed funds. A few of the poorest 
even asked for additional credit at the Station. Anything to uphold 
the reputation of Utkiavie! It was silly and a little touching. 

I hadn't yet seen our visitors at their best, for all this time they 
had been wearing their most ragged clothing. But when they took 
over the drums the second day while our crowd danced it was like 
the transformation of cocoons into butterflies. Decked out in all 
the finery they had brought in bundles, they certainly were a fine 
looking lot of people. Many of the men were six feet tall. Even 
their women seemed larger and better looking than average 
Eskimos. 

The third and last day was given over to the actual exchange of 
presents. I say "exchange." In reality, it turned into one grand 
bargain-driving spree. If a gift fell below expectations, the donor 
kept adding to it until he had nothing more to offer. And when this 
failed to satisfy, the other party demanded his present back even 
though he often sold it later for whatever it would bring. 

The swapping and wrangling over, our guests seemed in no great 
hurry to leave. One couldn't blame them after all the distance 



228 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

they'd traveled to get here. Besides, fishing was excellent in the 
lagoon. So they stayed on at Berinak until the arrival of the ships 
among them our tender "Bonanza" with Tom and Fred aboard. 

Then came the inevitable. Amid general jubilation over the fine 
season we'd had, the inland people began trading what furs they 
had left to the whalers' crews for whiskey. In the light of what fol- 
lowed, however, I have never begrudged them the good time they 
had on that bad whiskey. 

For the ships stayed just long enough to give the Eskimos a germ 
of some sort probably a kind of flu. A number of our own em- 
ployees caught it, too, as well as half Utkiavie. Fearful of a sweep- 
ing epidemic, we spent the next days and nights looking after the 
sick villagers. Nobody had time to worry about the crowd at 
Berinak. 

"They're a strong healthy bunch/' said Mac. "I doubt if it's hit 
'em hard." 

But when we had a chance to go over there and see how they were 
making out we found whole families down with the sickness. It had 
taken a far more virulent form than anything we'd seen in the vil- 
lage. Too sick to move, nevertheless they were being urged by their 
devil-doctors to pack up and leave for home. The coast, it seemed, 
wasn't good for them. Once they started back they would soon be 
well. So said the devil-doctors. 

And because they still held great power over the simple inland 
folk, nothing a white man could say had the slightest effect. It was 
pitiful to see all those fine men and women grown so weak that 
only their devil-doctors' ranting, coupled with their own will power, 
enabled them to crawl about trying to load their oomiaks for the 
interminable voyage up the rivers and home. 

We had to stand there helpless on the littered beach and watch 
them go the whole fifty boatloads. 

Two or three of our own sick died later from pneumonia, but 
when the rest recovered rapidly, we thought maybe we'd been too 
pessimistic about those inland natives. They had seemed a husky 
lot. And, as Tom put it, "Maybe their damned devil-doctors knew 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 229 

what they were doing, after all. Kept telling 'em they'd soon be 
well, didn't they? Y'know, Charlie, some of these devil-doctors do 
funny things." 

I nodded. "Once I saw an old duffer named Tatpana cut through 
a three-inch spruce plank with a seal line.' 7 

Not long after this, an Eskimo from the village who had been 
far inland and so hadn't heard of any sickness, burst into the Sta- 
tion to tell us of a lot of dead people scattered all along the banks of 
a river where he'd been hunting. 

We left for Berinak at once. 

Following the homeward course of the stricken people we came 
to the first evidence of disaster not ten miles away a woman with 
a young baby. She had died on the bank of the lagoon. The child 
had lived a while longer. Its body lay quite a way off. 

The farther we went, the greater grew the tragedy. It was clear 
that from the day they set out for home in their oomiaks they had 
been dying all along the coast and up the rivers. From the postures 
of the bodies, we could almost visualize it happening the stronger 
members dragging the weaker on to the banks to die, then paddling 
a little farther until it came their turn to be abandoned. 

I never shall forget one camp we came to, with its three empty 
boats and a dozen bodies sprawled around on the bank. Men, 
women, children all as cold as the ashes of the fire they'd tried 
hard to build. And off at one side a string of turquoise beads that 
would have brought a fortune a few years before. 

From there we turned back, realizing that what we had seen was 
only a sample of what lay farther back along the remote inland 
waterways. 

All that fall and the next summer we kept getting reports from 
hunters of bodies discovered along far river banks, sometimes 
alone, sometimes with a few belongings scattered around. 

It is my opinion that of those two hundred or more husky inland 
Eskimos who so light-heartedly danced with us at Utkiavie, not one 
was left alive. 



CHAPTER XLII 

THE tragedy left its imprint on the village. Every Eskimo saw that 
those devil-doctors of the stricken inland people had made a mess 
of it. Could it be that their own devil-doctors weren't anywhere 
near so powerful as they pretended? 

I don't say that this tragedy marked a sudden break in the peo- 
ple's old-time faith. Minor doubts had been arising ever since we 
white men broke all their whaling rules and still managed to kill 
whales. 

Then too, there had been puzzling incidents like "Ocpullu's 
Rebellion." If devil-doctors were all-powerful, how was it that little 
Taha, mean as he was, had been beaten up by a mere woman, thus 
losing face with everybody? And what about Mr. Stevenson and 
his strange new religion that had nothing to do with orthodox 
devil-doctoring? 

Which was right, which wrong? It was all very confusing. 

But while no one event could take away the power of their devil- 
doctors over night, the tragedy of the inland people cracked it so 
wide open that the "profession" had to take a new tack. Several of 
our local devil-doctors suddenly hinted at a wonderful new religion 
far better for Eskimos than the white man's, and the fact that each 
soon had quite a following was a great worry to good Dr. Marsh 
who had done his best to carry on where Mr. Stevenson left off. 

"Let the devil fellows stick to their own hocus-pocus. They're 
running that into the ground already," he said, "but when they tell 
the people about seeing God and talking with Him well that's 
going too far, Charlie. It's dangerous' 9 

"They'll hang themselves by their own rope soon enough/' I 
answered. 

They certainly made a good start when one of them told his fol- 
lowers that God had taken him to a new heaven where all the differ- 

230 




Photo by Arnold Liebes 
WINTER AT BARROW, SHOWING MR. BROWER's STATION 




CHURCH AT BARROW. FARTHEST NORTH CHURCH IN AMERICA 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 231 

ent animals were so tame that you could walk right up and kill one 
whenever food was needed. 

That was enough for the more skeptical. Who ever heard of 
being able to kill meat without even hunting for it! 

But what finished this particular devil-doctor was his further 
insistence that God had given him the job of baptizing them. 

About fifty agreed to be "saved." The great event took place on 
Sunday afternoon in an outlying igloo. Accessories: a small tub of 
water, and a very dirty rag with which he bathed one and all from 
waist to neck. For some reason his efforts didn't "take" well. But 
everything else did. ... It required a year, off and on, for me to 
cure the sores they contracted by that ceremony. 

The last devil-doctor to lose out in Utkiavie was an unmarried 
woman. How she got her reputation for devil-driving I never quite 
understood, unless it was because of her strong personality coupled 
with a flare for the dramatic. The fact that she would soon have a 
baby presented no obstacle to her teachings. Quite the reverse. 
She capitalized her condition by pounding in the story of the Im- 
maculate Conception until only the actual birth of the baby was 
needed to set her up as a second favored Virgin. 

Day by day the whole village eagerly awaited this final infallible 
proof of her divinity. Had all gone well, it might have restored to 
the devil-doctors their former prestige for another decade. 

One day Dr. Marsh, who had been particularly upset by the 
sacrilegious angle, came bolting into the Station, beaming all over: 

"She's done it this time, Charlie 1" 

"Done what? Who?" 

"That woman devil-doctor. Her baby's come, and now every- 
body knows she's a fake." 

"I thought the baby was supposed to prove that she's another 
Madonna." 

"So it was. But, Charlie," his smile broadened, "they can't see 
any Madonna having a girl!' 9 

That was the end of devil-doctors at Utkiavie. 

But I couldn't always agree with the missionaries, either. For 



232 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

example, they were urging the natives to live in frame houses like 
white people. This meant heating by stoves, and as driftwood con- 
tinued scarce as hens' teeth, the result was that the wooden shacks 
were usually cold and draf ty, with much pneumonia ensuing. They 
weren't half so practical as the old-style native igloos which gen- 
erations of trial and error had developed for just such conditions, 
and in which an even day-and-night temperature could be main- 
tained by stone lamps. The new houses certainly were harder to 
keep clean, and soon each contained as many Eskimos as ever 
packed into a single igloo. 

One of the biggest mistakes, I think, was in tearing down the 
dance houses for fuel. While this put an end to young people freely 
congregating there at night and sometimes, no doubt, doing things 
they shouldn't, it didn't improve matters to take away this common 
family rendezvous. They simply went off somewhere else and con- 
tinued committing just as many indiscretions. 

About the only thing to benefit from the "new order" were the 
consciences of the well-meaning missionaries themselves. Perhaps 
it's always this way when "reforms" are forced on people faster 
than conditions warrant. 

Early in September, 1902, one of the Pacific Steam Whaling 
Company's steamers, westward bound from Herschel Island, came 
in to land a sick Eskimo woman. 

If the skipper knew what ailed her he was mighty careful not 
to tell anybody. He just dumped her on the beach and sailed away. 
The people around the Station put up a tent for the woman, doing 
all they could to make her comfortable, but she died within two 
days. 

It wasn't long before the Eskimos began getting sick. I couldn't 
diagnose their fever for some time. But when they started breaking 
out all over with red blotches, Dr. Marsh and I felt pretty sure it 
was measles. One after another came down. Then it spread to the 
people farther out on the Point. There came a period when all the 
Eskimos both in our village and at Nubook were sick at the same 
time. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 233 

Neither Marsh nor I had any medicine, and since the natives 
made no effort to help each other, we were busy day and night, 
hurrying from one stricken family to the next, doing what we could 
for them without medicine. 

Food was a problem. All had to be fed. I made somebody go the 
rounds every morning to find out how they were fixed for food. 
Where the whole household was too sick to cook, we arranged for 
an outsider to do it for them. Had nobody been on hand to see that 
this was done, I believe they'd have lain there and starved. 

Our hardest and least successful job was making the sick ones 
stay indoors after the rash came out and they began feeling better. 
That was the critical time. They paid no attention to my orders 
and used no sense of their own. Feeling a bit better, they insisted 
on going outdoors where they lay around and caught cold and got 
pneumonia and that was the end of them. Sometimes entire fam- 
ilies would die in the night. 

I had better control of those near the Station, but here my chief 
worry was Toctoo. Hard as I tried to keep my family quarantined, 
for once I couldn't do a thing with Toctoo. She saw the need and 
insisted on helping. Her tireless efforts undoubtedly saved several 
lives. 

Not one of the whites took the disease. Thanks to his elaborate 
personal precautions, like always fumigating himself before enter- 
ing his house, Marsh managed to keep even his children from catch- 
ing measles. - 

So many of tike natives died, however, that we had to organize a 
burial system. Ned Bosqui and Charlie Graber, two prospectors 
camping at the Point, became coffin makers; Fred and Tom, under- 
takers. As soon as a new death was reported, they put the body in 
one of the rough new coffins and carried it out of the village, leaving 
it on the tundra to be buried later when we had a chance. 

Most of the deaths occurred in October and November, few 
after the first of December. But I buried one hundred twenty-six 
people before the epidemic ran its course. 

An air of desolation shrouded the Station as Christmas ap- 



234 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

preached that year. There was no holiday spirit in Tom or me; 
no spirit of any sort. Tom had lost his wife and child, and Toctoo, 
too, finally contracted the disease, her death preceding that of our 
young baby by a day. 



CHAPTER XLIII 

IN 1905 my son Jim, who is now a major in the United States Army, 
was, to put it mildly, a handful. Had I realized the scrapes a "hand- 
ful" could get into aboard ship, I might have thought twice before 
taking him outside with me on the "Bear" that summer. 

What with an overindulgent crew, a mischievous boy and a 
tobacco-eating goat that doubled as ship's mascot and devil in- 
carnate, I remember our chaotic run to Nome as a continuous three- 
ring circus. 

For fear of permanently ruining the discipline of the Revenue 
Cutter Service, I decided we'd go the rest of the way to Seattle on 
the passenger steamer "Victoria." 

During our wait at Nome I was delighted to meet Conrad Siem. 
It seemed he had skippered the "Albion" in shortly after gold was 
discovered and had stayed on ever since. We walked the streets 
talking over old times, and at one point stopped to let a dray pass. 
When I turned around Jim was nowhere in sight. I was badly 
scared. Conrad and I looked every place, finally starting a sys- 
tematic search of the near by buildings. Far back in the rear of a 
store we found Jim. He was shaking all over. Those dray horses 
had been too much for him. 

That little incident made me realize what the familiar "outside" 
world could mean to a small American boy brought up on the shores 
of the Arctic. But any hope that the "elegance" of a passenger 
steamer like the "Victoria" might awe such a boy into behaving 
himself was shattered at dinner the first night out. 

At the end of our table sat a "dowager" of about fifty. Next to 
her came Jim, then myself. The rest included several women from 
up river ^and a number of miners. Instead of eating his soup, Jim 
seemed hypnotized by a fly buzzing around. Suddenly he came out 
with a shrill: 

235 



236 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

"Dad! What kind of bird is that?" 

All but the "dowager" sniggered. 

"You know you've seen plenty of flies, Jim/' I answered indul- 
gently, as if it were some private joke between us. 

Still he kept his eye on that fly until it settled alongside, when 
with a sudden swipe he missed the fly but piled the "dowager's" 
soup plate into her lap. 

I offered to pay for the dress and followed this up with every 
apology I knew. But she left the table without a word and didn't 
show up again the whole trip. The rest of the folks howled and, of 
course, made friends with Jim at once. That didn't help much, 
either, for whenever he was missing after that I could be sure he was 
up to something his new friends had put him on to. 

Jim's world widened fast. His first train trip, Seattle to San 
Francisco, was followed by the longer one east. I was as excited as 
he. It seemed good to visit my folks, and mother, getting old, was 
mighty glad to see her lost son again. The climax came Christmas 
with a big reunion which included all my brothers and their fam- 
ilies as well as my daughters. The girls were in high school now, 
Elizabeth seventeen, Flora fifteen. It was the last time our whole 
family got together. 

Around Easter I took the girls to Washington for a little sight- 
seeing. While we were there a banker friend of mine arranged a 
private meeting for us with President Theodore Roosevelt. It 
turned out to be anything but the ordeal I had envisioned, for, 
noticing my Masonic charm, the President immediately put me at 
ease by a hearty "Brother!" He complimented my girls on their 
good looks, telling them they were the first Alaskan- American 
citizens he had ever met. Then, giving each a double carnation, he 
had an attendant show them through the White House while he and 
I swapped hunting yarns. Presently he was drawing me out on one 
whaling adventure after another until the girls' return ended our 
visit. 

"Did you tell him a lot of things?" my daughters asked as soon 
as we got away. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 237 

"I'm afraid I bored him/ 7 I admitted, thoughtfully. 

"No you didn't, Daddy/' Elizabeth put in. "I could tell from his 
eyes." 

I think perhaps she was right about Mr. Roosevelt's interest. 
At any rate, I used the occasion to point out to the girls how easily 
they, too, could be charming just by showing a real interest in others 
whether important folk or rough whalemen. 

Not wishing to shoulder my sister with the care of all the kids, 
I planned to take a reluctant Jim back to Alaska with me. Our 
tickets bought direct to San Francisco, we were all set to leave 
when on April eighteenth word of the earthquake and fire brought 
consternation to everyone in the country save Jim. Now I had 
to leave him. He wasn't a bit sorry. 

When I reached what was left of 'Frisco five nights later, one of 
our office men conducted me to Mr. Liebes' house on Pacific Ave- 
nue, the big ballroom of which now served as temporary quarters 
for the Company. 

I didn't see much of the destruction that night. But next morn- 
ing what a sight! Nothing downtown but desolation, with here 
and there a building standing. I almost cried. After breakfast, 
which the Jap servant got for me on a stove in the street, I walked 
all the way to the ferry just to have a look at what had been the 
city I loved. 

The schooner "Vine" had been chartered to go north as our 
tender this year, and although she lay safe at Oakland there was 
nothing to load ker with until I had picked up an outfit in other 
cities to be shipped back to Oakland. This trip took me only ten 
days, but by the time I returned, wooden buildings were shooting 
up like magic, new stores already being opened. 

Somewhere I had heard it said that a city is more than brick and 
, mortar. Now I knew what that meant. The real San Francisco 
my San Francisco was still alive and kicking. 

The "Vine," loaded at last, sailed for the north one day in June 
with me standing on her deck torn between two desires. I was eager 
enough to get back to the peace of the Arctic again, yet reluctant 



238 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

to leave behind what seemed to me a miracle in the making. 

For once we had fine weather nearly all the way up to Point 
Barrow. The boys seemed as glad to see me as I felt to get back 
and resume the calm routine of Arctic existence where no epoch- 
making events ever took place. 

I was still checking supplies unloaded from the "Vine" when an 
Eskimo from Berinak reported a strange looking vessel creeping 
along outside the sandspits. Taking my glasses, I got hold of Fred 
and started for the Point. . . . We got there in time to meet her 
coming in from the east. 

I'd never seen just such a sloop in these waters before. Neither 
had the Eskimos, a small group of whom stood watching silently 
as she came about in the sluggish breeze, lost headway, drifted 
slightly astern, then dropped her anchor. 

Viewed broadside, she seemed about seventy feet long. Certainly 
she looked the worse for wear, as if her home port wherever that 
might be were a long way off. 

I can't say what first suggested it perhaps several slightly 
foreign-looking details that caught my eye but suddenly I knew. 

I should have guessed sooner. Hadn't I seen the newspapers last 
winter when word had first been flashed out of the wilderness to an 
astonished world? 

No matter. Here she was before my eyes. The "Gjoa" the little 
sloop which in three forgotten years had painfully accomplished 
what navigators had been attempting for centuries. 

Strange that I should come so long a way to dodge the turmoil 
of historic events, only to be the first to congratulate Roald Amund- 
sen as he completed his epoch-making Northwest Passage right 
here at Point Barrow! 



CHAPTER XLIV 

FOR some time the Bureau of Education had been putting up better 
schoolhouses along the coast, thus booming the Three R's at Wales, 
Tigara, Wainwright and now Utkiavie. 

With us at least, this "higher education" was a mixed blessing. 
Encouraged in school to follow the white man's eccentricities as 
closely as possible, the older boys now turned their New Year's 
celebration into a general rough-house, on the theory that if a little 
whoopee was good, a riot must be infinitely better. 

No longer were they satisfied with making a harmless racket. 
They had to barge into our locked houses with their oil cans, horns 
and drums and smash things up. 

"Boys, that's something you can't do around here any more," I 
told a grinning bunch, trying to sound tough. "If somebody asks 
you in, all right. But mind you don't try it otherwise. Especially 
on me" 

They laughed heartily, saying that I was only an old man (I was 
forty-three) and they were many. So what could I do if they wanted 
to come in? 

There was nothing spiteful in this. It was just that they hadn't 
learned when to stop. And since that subject didn't seem to be in 
their schoolbooks, I decided to teach it to them myself. 

It was fifty-two below zero that New Year's Eve just the right 
temperature for lively devilment. But I was ready for them behind 
locked doors. 

In due time I heard the boys break into the ten-foot snow-porch, 
or entrance, attached to my house. I waited until all had had time 
to crowd into this narrow space. Then, jerking the inner door open, 
I threw four pails of icewater over them in quick succession. 

The place was cleared in no time and nature did the rest. Their 
clothing froze almost instantly. Some of the boys who couldn't 

239 



240 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

bend their knees to run or walk had to be lugged home on sleds. 

The rest of the winter passed so quietly, without even the dance 
houses to furnish needed exercise, that active preparations for 
spring whaling came as a great relief. Perhaps that was why we had 
such a good year. It seemed, however, that hardly a season could 
pass without at least one accident of some sort. This time it hap- 
pened near the very end. 

The pack had closed in, leaving a chain of holes all up and down 
the flaw. Although I had our boat in a favorable spot, we lost a 
couple of small whales by not getting irons into them quickly 
enough. When a third came along, my crew put the boat right up on 
its back and I had that fellow harpooned before he could possibly 
dive. It was still a trick to get him alongside. With all hands shout- 
ing and hauling, nobody paid any attention to a lot of yelling from 
the boat above us until an Eskimo came on the run. 

He was too excited to make us understand his jibberish, but 
gestured towards his crowd and started back. Following him across 
the ice to his own boat, I was met by the sight of a hideously bloody 
smear where a man's face should have been, and off to one side 
a couple of natives struggling with a third, the boat-steerer, who 
acted crazy. 

The story came out while I gingerly mopped the blood off the 
wounded man to see what remained of his face, if anything. 

It seemed they had guessed by our yells that we'd caught some- 
thing big, and thinking we might need another gun to finish off the 
whale, Cicriccowra, the injured man, had tried to get one for us out 
of the bow of their boat; but in his hurry he ran his face against 
the rod which sets off the charge. The bomb had ploughed clean 
through his cheek, taking off the end of his nose and driving powder 
into everything. A nasty job to tackle anywhere! And we were 
miles from home ! 

I sent a man ashore for a sled, anyhow, and turned again to see 
what could be done before the sled arrived. When closer examina- 
tion showed that the Eskimo wasn't likely to die, I straightened up: 

"This man is going to be all right/' I said, "but what's the matter 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 241 

over there?" 

At my words, the hysterical native stopped struggling with those 
holding him and finally calmed down enough to admit that he had 
been trying to kill himself. It was all his fault, he chattered. He had 
left the gun without fixing its firing pin. 

I had Cicriccowra temporarily patched up before the poor boat- 
steerer could be convinced that he wasn't a murderer. 

The patching job was a crude one. It meant sewing up the great 
star-shaped hole, split four ways, where the bomb had gone through 
his cheek. But before attempting any sewing, I must somehow get 
the powder out. That had me stumped until one of the others volun- 
teered to suck it out. 

While he was doing this I heated a skin needle over the camp 
stove and bent it into a sort of hook. For thread I got the cook to 
yank several coarse hairs out of her head and braid them the way 
she braided sinew for sewing. Then, with two of the men to help 
me, I closed Cicriccowra's cheek by six stitches. Not much could be 
done to his nose except cut off the fag ends with my knife and band- 
age him up with the cleanest snowshirt in the crowd. 

Since the sled wouldn't be along for quite a while yet, there was 
nothing better to do than go back and cut up our whale, with 
Cicriccowra sitting on the sidelines an interested spectator. 

I had fully intended to accompany him ashore but presently the 
ice opened up and we decided to try for another whale. Everything 
save death had to be put aside when whales were running. The 
season was short. 

I knew, of course, that the whaling industry had been under- 
going certain changes as reflected in lower prices for bone and the 
fact that more and more ships were being laid up. Such things were 
straws in the wind or should have been. But the full blow didn't 
hit Point Barrow until the summer of 1908 when the "Herman" 
came in with word that bone was practically unsaleable. 

Now what to do? 

The "Bear" had left. But I went out on the first available craft 
a schooner and after endless head-winds and calms, reached 



242 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Port Townsend and hurried south to the Company's new quarters 

in a rebuilt San Francisco. 

There the grim truth was forced upon me that ladies' corsets, 
our chief market for years, were on their way out. Those still being 
made no longer used whalebone for stiffening. They had substi- 
tutes. That was the worst of it. For even if corsets came back, what 
chance was there of bone being used again? 

Other factors, too, had conspired to knock the bottom out of 
whaling; things so far apart as whips and automobiles. Where 
formerly a good whip with a bone heart had been a smart adjunct 
to any moon-lit buggy ride, young men now chugged their girls 
around in new-fangled horseless buggies. 

But before giving up entirely, I went East to look into the whole 
matter myself, as well as to visit the family. 

It was good to find Elizabeth teaching school, Flo attending 
State Normal, and the boys both doing well in their studies. Then 
I spent a few days at home with mother and father before going on 
to New Bedford which had always been the home of the whale- 
bone market. 

My old friends there gave me little encouragement. "Too many 
substitutes, Charlie. Get out while you can." 

"Where are they using some of these substitutes?" I inquired. 

The nearest factory was at Butler, New Jersey. So to Butler I 
went. The plant manager was interested at once in the piece of 
whalebone I took from my pocket, examining it as one might a 
relic of some bygone age. In return, he showed me how thin steel, 
covered with rubber, vulcanized and polished, worked as well as 
the real thing. 

That night I wrote San Francisco that bone was done for so far 
as we were concerned. Completely fed up now with ladies' corsets 
and perhaps wishing to get as far away from them as possible, I 
took a trip to the Hawaiian Islands, then, on an impulse I've never 
regretted, came back to the eastern seaboard for another brief visit 
home. It was the last time I saw my parents. Both died not long 
afterwards while I was again in the North, 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 243 

For some reason Isaac Liebes still thought the market for bone 
might be revived, and insisted on our staying in the game. So I 
stayed and before long was broke. Even Isaac Liebes had to agree 
that bone was done for. 

Perhaps it needed something like this to jolt the Company into 
trying out a new plan which I had urged for some time. With my 
associates' full backing, I returned to Point Barrow, called all our 
Eskimos together and announced that we were quitting whaling. 

Blank surprise. 

"We're going in for jurs" I explained, "and instead of wages, 
you'll each have your share of what the furs sell for. If you work 
hard I think you'll all make more than you ever did before." 

From the broad grins that greeted this last it was evident that 
the new order of the day might pan out quite well. 

Meanwhile, I could keep some of the men profitably busy in 
another way. My interest in collecting had grown steadily, and I 
had been hiring more and more of the natives to help excavate the 
old mounds in this vicinity. Each had a place where he dug if and 
when the spirit moved, scratching away with a small adz or even a 
piece of metal lashed to a handle. 

It was slow work but brought to light engraved implements of 
ivory or musk-ox horns, lance-heads made from light gray flint, 
whalebone buckets, ancient fire-drills, round stones blackened in 
the cooking of many a prehistoric meal. 

I had some particularly choice relics ; for example, a pair of eye- 
protectors made of musk-ox horns, beautifully polished and etched 
all over with elaborate designs. Among my most cherished jade 
treasures was a woman's knife fashioned out of one piece, handle 
and all. Some primitive perfectionist must have spent half his life 
on that job. 

We also uncovered the remains of several houses with sides and 
entrance halls consisting of the skulls of large bowhead whales. 
And from a long-buried icehouse came the whole skin of a musk-ox, 
along with one horn all embedded in the ice. I dried the skin and 
sent it, with the horn, to Dr. Hornaday, director of the Bronx Park. 



244 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Fascinating work! Even the Eskimos grew enthusiastic. The 
result was that I had acumulated and catalogued a really fine col- 
lection of Arctic specimens which led to my first meeting with 
Vilhjalmur Stefansson. 

He came sledding in from the east so nonchalantly one summer 
day that it was hard to believe he'd been traveling towards me all 
spring. But it had taken him that long to come from far-off Coro- 
nation Gulf where he had been studying the new Eskimos. What he 
wanted now was to dig up old implements and other specimens 
such as we had been excavating around our neck of the world. 

"How long can you stay?" I asked. 

"All summer." 

"Fine. Make yourself comfortable. We can't do much till the 
snow melts." 

I told him of a place on the shore of the lagoon two miles from 
Berinak where I always went duck hunting about July tenth but 
where specimen hunting might also be good. He finally persuaded 
me to go a week early this year in order to help him dig. 

Armed with picks and shovels, he and I pitched camp there one 
evening and next morning went to work. By the time we'd skinned 
the sod off a spot twenty feet square, noon had come. He was taking 
an after-dinner nap when I got him on the job again. We shoveled 
dirt all afternoon. By supper I was ready to call the whole thing 
off, but since Steff had talked me into coming there a week ahead 
of time, I -wanted to show him that I wasn't a quitter. Around eight 
that night I poked into his tent and after an argument dragged him 
out. Both of us then dug till midnight with no results. 

Next morning Steff eyed me thoughtfully across the campfire. 

"I think," he said, "maybe I can do better buying the things 
your Eskimos are finding." 

In the end I took charge of the purchasing for him since I had 
been doing this in a small way for some time. When he went out 
on the "Bear" that fall he had some twenty thousand specimens 
that I had bought for him from the natives. 



CHAPTER XLV 

THAT was the last I heard of Steff for several seasons. But his en- 
thusiasm lingered with us, renewing the Eskimos' interest in ex- 
cavating all the old buildings around Utkiavie and at Nubook, too. 

Occasionally their finds revealed customs and practices as old 
and forgotten as the relics themselves. 

One of the men brought me what he called a suit of armour. 
Made from the flattened ends of bear ribs laced together with seal- 
hide thongs , it could easily have turned aside a bone arrowhead. 

Examining this specimen, the village ancients recalled hearing 
how young men had been bred as gladiators in the early days. They 
couldn't even marry until after fighting age around thirty, per- 
haps. Their main job in life was to meet the fighting men of other 
tribes with bows and arrows, knives and clubs, and put on a show 
to the death. 

These clubs were evil-looking weapons of bone with one-inch 
saw teeth along the edge and a thong attached to prevent the owner 
from losing it during the height of battle. The best war club I ever 
had I sent to the American Museum. It was found near Cape Hal- 
kett at a place supposed to have been famous for such contests. 

I have sometimes wondered what my old friend down at Tigara, 
the late, terrible Attungowrah, could have accomplished with such 
a skull-cracker. 

The winter after Steff left happened to be one of those occasional 
periods when lynx migrate from inland and appear along the coast 
by thousands. It's goodbye then to fox-trapping. The crafty lynx 
go from trap to trap eating foxes as fast as they are caught. 

Not that lynx are bad eating themselves, according to my no- 
tion. The trouble that winter was that so few of the men shared my 
taste. Fred in particular. The only thing that ever seriously came 
between Fred and me was a nice fat lynx that I had killed and 

245 



246 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

asked him to cook. His lip began to curl before my request was out. 

"If you're down to eating a damned cat," he roared, "you can 
cook it yourself." 

Although we shot and trapped a lot of them, their small fur 
value never made up for all the fox-skins they cheated us out of. 

Later, foxes were to furnish us some of our most profitable trap- 
ping; especially the white foxes which breed from thirty to fifty 
miles inland and come trooping out on the ocean ice as soon as it 
makes in the fall. Here, far from land, they spend most of the 
winter, subsisting on dead seals or walrus or even dead whales 
drifting in the pack, or else following the polar bears about to eat 
whatever these animals leave of their kill. 

But along towards spring their favorite dish consists of baby 
seals which they dig out from under the snow, since seals don't go 
into the water until they are over a month old. Should all other 
food fail, white foxes can always dine well on the small marine 
animals frozen fast to the bottom side of young ice. This may re- 
quire a bit of waiting. But as soon as a pressure forms the young 
ice will turn over and expose everything. 

After a nourishing winter spent on the bleakest floe, white foxes 
come ashore and wander inland as spring advances. Around July 
they have their young, four to ten in a litter. Many of these 
are killed by white owls always hanging around the dens waiting 
for the new arrivals to come out and play. But those that survive 
this ordeal are now ready for the next winter migration out on the 
ocean ice, thus starting the fox cycle all over again. 

When the lynx let us alone we went after white foxes in a big 
way. Finally word got around the country that we were a surefire 
market. This brought natives from all over the east and far inland. 
All came loaded with skins which we bought. It didn't hurt my 
feelings a bit. Prices of white foxskins were rising and I needed all 
I could catch or buy to pull me out of the hole I'd got into from 
trying to sell bone when none was wanted. 

Despite occasional setbacks our business in furs increased so 
that the time came when I opened up a branch station at Wain- 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 247 

wright, to the south, then another far east of us at Beechey Point. 

Polar bears, of course, were always a substantial source of profit. 
We had one unusually fine season, although it ended in tragedy. 
The ice made early that fall, coming in great sheets from the north, 
grinding along the beach without an opening anywhere. Long be- 
fore it would support the weight of a man, half a dozen polar bears 
could always be seen from the top of the Station moving southward 
over the ice, the condition of which never bothered them at all. 

Their instinct was marvelous. On thin ice they spread themselves 
out so as to cover a large space; if very thin, they lay flat on their 
bellies, hauling themselves along with their claws. When the ice 
was too thin even for this, they swam underneath, breaking up 
through with their heads to breathe. 

This remarkable exhibition of bear versus ice kept up for days 
until the surface was strong enough to bear the weight of a man. 
Then all hands went hunting. 

Konnettowra, one of the men from the village, happened to be 
out sealing one day. Dragging his seal home at dusk, he felt some- 
thing tug at it every little while but thought it was the rough ice 
he was traveling over. Finally, feeling a harder tug than usual, he 
looked back and found a polar bear following him and trying to 
eat the seal. 

Konnettowra slipped the harness from his shoulders in a hurry. 
The bear started for him. With no time to get his rifle out of its 
sack, he used the ice pick on the end of his spear and with one 
lucky thrust forced the sharp point into the animal's brain. Al- 
though not a large polar bear, it could have given him a nasty 
mauling. 

A few days later, another native came in with two polar bear 
cubs which he wanted to sell me. 

"Where's the mother?" I asked. 

He'd shot her a long way out on the pack. The cubs, he said, 
wouldn't let him come near at first. So he waited to see what would 
happen. Finally they ventured closer and closer to where their 
mother's skin lay on the ice. After a while they began nosing it all 



248 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 
over looking for the teats, then finding nothing to eat, calmly curled 
up on the skin to rest. When he started home dragging it over the 
ice, they followed as if nothing were the matter. But even the native 
thought it rather pathetic when, growing tired, they allowed them- 
selves to be dragged along curled up on their mother's skin. 

I bought both cubs and sent them out later on the "Herman." 

A great year for polar bears! 

The Eskimos killed sixty before the ice went off with a change of 
wind. That was when our good luck turned to sudden tragedy. For 
the wind hauled offshore one morning while most of the hunters 
were far out on the pack. Those who noticed the shift instantly 
turned shoreward and managed to get back on anchored ice in 
time. Six others, however, failed to make it and were carried out. 
We gave them up. It was like a return from the dead, therefore, 
when two of them showed up a couple of days later, having finally 
got to land about forty miles south of us. 

The other four we never heard of again. Those lost belonged to 
Point Barrow, and all were young men. 

In 1913 Captain Pedersen of the power schooner "Elvira" put in 
with brief but interesting news. Stef ansson, he said, was on his way 
north, this time with the Canadian Arctic Expedition. Steff him- 
self had headquarters aboard the "Karluk" which was commanded 
by Captain Bob Bartlett. Two other boats belonging to the Expedi- 
tion, the "Mary Sachs" and the "Alaska," would be coming along 
later. Pedersen said that Steff expected to be in the ice for several 
years. 

"Several years?" I exclaimed. 

"That was the idea when I left them outfitting at Nome. If I 
were you, Charlie," Pedersen advised, "I'd get extra supplies to- 
gether, in case they're expecting to add a few last items here." 

Some time later we sighted the "Karluk" a long way south of the 
village and apparently stuck so fast that it might be days before 
she'd get through to us. I certainly wasn't looking for Steff when 
almost at once he and Dr. McKay came walking up the coast. 

Could I furnish the Expedition with two oomiaks, several sleds 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 249 

and considerable gear? Also, how about recommending a couple 
of good Eskimo men, one of whom must be willing to take his wife 
along to repair clothing? Fd have plenty of time for all this, said 
Steff . The ship was tied fast to the ice and no telling when the wind 
would move the pack out and let her through. 

After I had agreed to do the best I could and found the necessary 
Eskimos for him, Steff took me aside. 

"One thing more, Charlie. We need another white man. Can you 
loan us Hadley?" 

"It's all right with me if Jack wants to go." 

So Jack Hadley joined the Expedition, too. 

When we had everything nearly ready, I called StefPs attention 
to the fact that his ship looked closer than before. 

"I can't understand that," he answered, squinting at the distant 
"Karluk." "Bartlett had her tied to ground ice when we left." 

She was drifting, though. No doubt of that. And the prospect of 
the pack sweeping her right past the Station worried Steff con- 
siderably. 

When the vessel had reached a point almost abreast, he suddenly 
decided that he'd better get his crowd aboard, as well as all the 
stuff they could carry in one trip. The "Mary Sachs" could take 
the rest when she came along. 

For a while the Station was in an uproar. I got all the natives 
with their sleds to help over the ice and across the narrow leads. 
It looked like the start of a tremendous whaling outfit. 

"Goodbye, Steff!" 

"Goodbye, Charlie. See you in a few years. Thanks for all " 
The wind carried the rest away. 

After they were safely aboard, we followed along the beach for 
several miles. The ship began drifting faster as the increasing cur- 
rent drove the pack north until, once past the tip of Point Barrow, 
she finally managed to work herself free. The last we saw of the 
"Karluk" she was steaming east through an almost open sea. 

In a week or so the "Alaska" went by. Later, the "Mary Sachs" 
stopped to take on a boat and other equipment that Steff had wanted 



250 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

put aboard. More farewells, more waving of hands. Then the last 
of the Canadian Arctic Expedition took off for its projected "few 
years 7 " sojourn in the ice fields. 

We heard nothing more about the three ships until the end of 
September when a party of Eskimos came in from the East to report 
the "Alaska" and "Mary Sachs" safe in winter quarters off Collin- 
son's Point. 

"Isn't the 'Karluk' there too?" we asked. 

No one had seen or heard of the "Karluk," 

We thought this strange. The Arctic played curious tricks on 
men and ships, but how account for two vessels of an expedition 
being visibly safe, the third vanishing into air? I should have 
given a lot for a few personal words with Steff just then. 

I had them and more one morning a month later when he 
and three other members of his party appeared at the Station. But 
instead of clearing things up, their visit deepened the mystery. 
They'd lost their own ship! 

"That 'Karluk' is unlucky," said Steff, dolefully. "First she gets 
caught in the ice here. You remember. Then off Cross Island she 
sticks again and we drift east all the way to Camden Bay." 

"Hundred and fifty miles?" 

He nodded. "That's not all, Charlie. The pack carried us west 
again as far as Return Reef. There the 'Karluk' froze in for good." 
He paused and added: "At least we thought so." 

Confident that their ship was fast for the winter, he and the 
three now with him had walked over to Jones Island for a little 
hunting. That night it blew a gale from the east. When they looked 
seaward next morning the "Karluk" was gone. About all they could 
do was to get across to the mainland at the first chance, then walk 
along the coast trying to catch up with her. 

Steff went on to describe the crazy game of hare and hounds the 
old ship had been playing with them ever since. 

At Point Tangent some Eskimos told of seeing such a vessel 
drift past in the ice not long before their arrival. Now she wasn't 
even in sight. It had been that way for days as they hurried along, 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 251 

always hopeful of sighting their ship around the next point, always 
disappointed. 

The final word came from a native on the tip of Point Barrow 
itself. A while before, this man had seen the same ship drifting 
west about ten miles out. Now he could only point in the general 
direction of Wrangel Island off distant Siberia. There, he said, was 
where she was headed. 

So it seemed the "hare" had won. And now nothing for the 
"hounds" but to head east again and try to rejoin their other two 
vessels still frozen in at Collinson's Point. 

There was no further word of the "Karluk" until the following 
summer. Then, when the "Bear" came in with Captain Bob Bart- 
lett himself aboard, we gathered in her wardroom to listen to his 
firsthand account of the "Karluk's" end. 

His ship, said Captain Bartlett, had never got clear of the ice 
but had drifted across the Arctic Ocean to a point north of Herald 
Island. There, some time in January, the ice finally crushed her. 

Bartlett and most of the crew managed to reach Wrangel Island 
over the ice. Then he crossed to the mainland of Siberia, making 
his way south to East Cape where he was picked up and taken to 
Nome. The "Bear" was to try and rescue the men still on Wrangel 
Island as soon as she could get back to Nome for coal. 

We knew now that Jack Hadley and our Eskimos had at least 
reached Wrangel Island. We hoped all those there could stick it 
out until the "Bear" took them off. There was no time to spare. We 
heaved a sigh of relief when the Cutter headed for Nome to coal. 

But it wasn't to happen that way. The "Bear" had hardly left 
when up from the south came a little power schooner, the "King 
and Wings," whose skipper, Swenson, was destined to do two ex- 
cellent turns that summer. 

I was the first beneficiary. As soon as Swenson revealed that he 
wasn't too anxious to go farther east, I made a good deal for all 
the merchandise he had aboard. Next, hearing about the "Kar- 
luk's" wrecked crew, he volunteered to see what he could do 
about it. 



252 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Skirting westward along the great floes, it was Swenson, with 
his little schooner and unbelievable luck, who reached the men on 
Wrangel Island during the one short period of that entire summer 
when the ice opened up enough for a ship to get through. 

Not all the men were alive. As we knew from Captain Bartlett, 
two parties had been lost on the ice while sledding away from the 
"Karluk." Others had since died of exposure. 

But all the rest Swenson brought out safely among them Had- 
ley and our natives- 



CHAPTER XLVI 

WAR in Europe! 

The "Bear's" wireless had picked up the flash while we sat in 
her cabin listening to Captain Bob Bartlett describe the last of the 
"Karluk." For the moment we felt as close to world events as 
though Point Barrow were New York. Then the "Bear" left and, 
deprived of her wireless, Point Barrow once more became Point 
Barrow. 

Luckily, the telephone operator dowij at Candle on Kotzebue 
Sound had the bright idea of copying the daily news reports he got 
from Nome and sending them up along the coast as often, and by 
such means, as he could. It was well worth the five dollars a month 
I paid him for what was probably the world's most northerly "syndi- 
cated news service." 

I would have paid ten times as much after the United States went 
in. Now the war became personal. My two sons had enlisted, Jim 
in the army, Bill in the navy. How eagerly I watched every living 
speck coming up the coast! You never could tell who might be 
bringing late news from Candle. 

But no skeletonized dispatches were so satisfactory as flesh-and- 
blood Archdeacon Stuck who spent two weeks with me in February 
of 1918. His news, while old, was enhanced by the practical views 
of a thoughtful man. 

Here was my chance, too, to show someone in authority our need 
for a hospital at the Point. I told him how sick natives journeyed 
here from all over this part of the country expecting us to cure 
them, and pointed out our lack of facilities. He agreed that it was 
the logical spot for a hospital. But when he promised, on leaving, to 
get the Mission Society to put one up immediately well, I took 
that with a large grain of salt. A hospital at Point Barrow cost 
money. 

He left in March to strike east for Herschel Island and I fur- 

253 



254 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

nished a capable native to accompany him as guide and helper. 
This man returned in April. He told of their reaching Herschel in 
twenty-one days only to learn that Stefansson, who had been quite 
sick there with typhoid fever, had just been sent out to the hospital 
at Fort Yukon. With twenty-one days of difficult going behind him, 
the Archdeacon, nevertheless, had immediately turned south, hop- 
ing to overtake the party and help them get Steff safely over the 
mountains. 

There, it seemed, was a man. 

Long after it was news to the rest of the world, I was thankful 
to hear that the war was over, and that both of my boys were home 
at my sister's in New Jersey. It seemed that Jim, who had served 
as bayonet instructor at Camp Fremont until he went across, had 
come back a second lieutenant. All that was fine. 

I wasn't so pleased to learn of a severe flu epidemic they were 
then having at Nome, with more Eskimos dying every day and the 
mail carrier quarantined at Kotzebue for fear he'd bring it north to 
us. When further word filtered in that hardly a native was left alive 
at Wales, I felt the time had arrived for somebody to take defense 
measures in our own village. 

The things I thought should be done were these. First, clean our 
houses and keep them clean. Second, prevent all strangers from 
entering the settlement. 

Such simple precautions would have been easy a few years be- 
fore. The difficulty now was due not so much to a change in the 
natives as to the attitude of some of the teachers and missionaries 
who had brought it about. 

With dancing and story-telling out, a lugubrious gloom pervaded 
the once carefree populace. They no longer welcomed friends to 
their houses as in the old days, nor took much interest in outdoor 
games like football. Everything centered in the religious meetings 
now held almost nightly. 

They had been told that it was wicked to strike a whale on Sun- 
day, even if that were the one chance to secure their year's supply 
of vital whale meat and blubber. When our commercial whaling 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 255 

went by the board, the missionaries had tried every way to prevent 
families from moving farther out where fur-trapping was good. 
They wanted them nearer the church. They even urged the people 
of Nubook to abandon their homes at one of the best hunting and 
whaling spots on the coast and move to Utkiavie to be handier for 
church services. 

That was once when I stepped in, going to the people of Nubook 
direct and finally persuading them to stay where they were and let 
the preacher come to them. For this I was never quite forgiven. 

No doubt it was natural enough for certain of our more transient 
missionaries and teachers to feel a bit jealous of an old-timer like 
Charlie Brower. For however changed the Eskimos were, they con- 
tinued treating me like one of themselves and seemed to think they 
still had a right to come to me in any difficulty. 

It was a confidence I valued highly. In return, I did everything 
practical that I could for them. If they were hungry or hard up, 
I always helped. I gave them medicine when sick, or a coffin if they 
died and never charged for these things the way certain mission- 
aries had been doing. 

Of course the newcomers were jealous of me at times. In a way, I 
can't blame them. But some of the missionaries and schoolteachers 
we had couldn't even get along with each other. That made any 
united effort between us almost impossible. 

Take, for example, this flu emergency. First, I tried to get our 
teacher to do something, for, besides teaching school, he was sup- 
posed to be health officer, too. 

Nothing happened. Then I tackled the missionary. 

"What's the use?" he answered, helplessly. "Whenever I try to 
do anything for the natives he always opposes me." 

Finally, by getting both men together, each premised to help if 
I would take the initiative. So I took it that same night. 

Calling all hands together at the church, I explained the flu 
situation from every angle, the missionary and schoolteacher stand- 
ing in the rear of the meeting, watching me like hawks. 

After a while I noticed that hardly any of the older people were 



256 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

following my English, so I switched to Eskimo. At this the teacher 
broke in to demand that I talk in a language a white man could 
understand. But I had all the natives with me now, and just for 
meanness went on in Eskimo. I was about fed up with petty non- 
sense. 

I named certain natives to inspect every house and report to me 
weekly. Others I appointed official lookouts to see that no strangers 
came in from any direction without first being examined. 

It was all very simple, yet tinged with an official importance 
which the Eskimos loved and understood. By the time we broke up 
I felt certain that my orders would be carried out. 

They were strictly. 

Whether or not these two measures housekeeping and isolation 
were wholly responsible for keeping the epidemic away from us 
that year, I'm morally certain that our missionary-teacher con- 
tingent had little to do with our good luck. 

Which isn't to say that these good people didn't mean well 
enough, or that I held a rather poor opinion of all missionaries and 
schoolteachers who came my way. Some, like Mr. Stevenson to 
whom I had entrusted my small daughters years before, not only 
meant well, but possessed the right combination of sincerity and 
horse sense to back it up. 

Mr. Hoare, the missionary at Tigara, was another fine, capable 
man. We had long been close friends. Only that spring he and Mr. 
McGuire, the District Superintendent of Schools, whose son taught 
school at Tigara, had made me quite a visit. Then I traveled back 
with them as far as Wainwright, where I had some fur business 
to attend to. All of which made the news brought by the "Herman" 
a few weeks later particularly shocking. 

The bare facts were these. As Mr. Hoare and the Superintendent 
neared Tigara, Hoare hurried ahead to see how everything was at 
the mission. He had just started to get off the sled when young 
McGuire stepped out of the door and in cold blood shot and killed 
his father's friend. 

The Superintendent then came on the run but halted at seeing 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 2S7 

the gun pointed at him, too. A lot of persuasive talk was all that 
saved him from being shot by his own son. Young McGuire then 
took to the hills and made his way as far as Cape Lisburne before 
being captured by some Eskimos who had followed. They sent him 
down to Candle and from there, eventually, to Nome. 

It turned out that while the two older men were away visiting 
me, he had taken an Eskimo woman to live with him, and suddenly 
finding himself caught with her in the mission, had acted on an in- 
sane impulse. 

"A bad mess, Charlie," the "Herman's" skipper called it. The 
sort of thing too often blamed on the Arctic alone, although in this 
case the bleak solitudes probably had had an unbalancing effect 
on the young schoolteacher. 

But it was my old friend I was thinking about, and how the Arctic 
had far too few missionaries like Mr. Hoare. 

As though to balance such tragedy, the skipper brought me good 
news, too, declaring that the schooner "Fox" would soon be along 
with all the lumber and equipment for our new hospital. 

Now, I had considerable faith in an Archdeacon who, on com- 
pleting a twenty-one day winter jaunt to Herschel Island, would 
immediately head for Fort Yukon to help a sick man across the 
mountains. When such an Archdeacon promised to do all he could 
to push our hospital project, I really had hopes of seeing it built in 
a few years. But for material and equipment actually to be on the 
way well, I'd have set it down as a baseless rumor except for 
three passengers whom the "Herman" had landed in our midst. 

One was a Mr. Brown sent here to erect the hospital during the 
coming winter. Another was his wife who had come along to keep 
him company. The third, a capable young woman named Miss Jor- 
dan, offered the most convincing proof. For what would a hospital 
nurse be doing on this God-forsaken coast unless a hospital were 
soon to follow? 

By the time the lumber and equipment arrived on the "Fox" I 
was willing to admit to the world that Archdeacon Stuck had indeed 
"put it across." 



CHAPTER XLVII 

I DON'T say that our new hospital turned Point Barrow into a 
popular summer resort, but its erection did seem to usher in a 
period marked by arrivals of scientists or explorers who found 
Barrow a handy stopover for everything from emergency supplies 
and repairs to just plain talk. 

Shortly after my return from a leisurely business and vacation 
jaunt that took me all around the United States, the "Bear" arrived 
with a party of young men on a collecting expedition for the Colo- 
rado Museum of Natural History. The naturalists, Alfred M. 
Bailey and R. W. Hendee, were with the party and Captain 
Cochran took them clear to Demarcation Point as far east as the 
old "Bear" had ever ploughed. Bailey and Hendee paid us numer- 
ous visits that fall and winter, Bailey completing his own collection 
at Cape Prince of Wales where he went by dog team in the spring. 

Late the next October I enjoyed a fine three-day visit from Cap- 
tain Amundsen whom I hadn't set eyes on since he anchored his 
little "Gjoa" off the Point several years before. He and Lieutenant 
Omdahl, of the Norwegian Navy, had come to Wainwright with a 
plane, built themselves a house christened Maudheim and now 
were busy planning a spring flight to Spitzbergen. 

There was only one thing that Amundsen didn't like about my 
home. The man who could navigate the Northwest Passage, who 
could calmly risk his life in both the Arctic and Antarctic was 
completely upset by some lemmings I kept in a cage. Eyeing me 
with a gaunt look that first morning, he declared he'd commit mur- 
der if those animals kept him awake again by scratching on the 
wire screen around their cage. It wasn't quite clear on whom he'd 
wreak his vengeance, me or the lemmings. But for fear it might 
be both, I hastily replaced the wire sides with glass, thus insuring 
sound sleep and stimulating conversation for the rest of his stay. 

258 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 259 

Another guest whose visit proved particularly welcome was the 
Danish explorer, Knud Rasmussen. Dropping in during May of 
1924, he brought with him Hansen, the photographer of the expedi- 
tion, and two Greenland Eskimos. One reason Rasmussen's stay 
gave me so much satisfaction was because I admit this frankly 
his Eskimo theories agreed with mine. 

I had always argued that our Alaskan Eskimos originally hailed 
from the east coast of America, bringing with them the ancient 
soapstone lamps, cooking utensils, copper and so on that we were 
finding in old dumps and dwellings. I knew, too, that their hunting 
implements and tools used in tanning hides were strikingly similar. 
Also, there was a deepseated tradition among our people that these 
things all had been "brought along" at some dim, distant time. 

Rasmussen and I thrashed these matters out with remarkable 
spirit, considering we were both on the same side. And if further 
proof were needed that that side was the right one, we had only to 
point to the ease with which his Greenland Eskimos and ours had 
understood one another from the start. 

A couple of months after Rasmussen went south along the coast, 
leaving Hansen to get pictures, our tender, the "Arctic," took 
shelter behind some ground ice five miles south. Another vessel, the 
"Lady Kinderly," had already arrived. She lay outside a ridge off 
the Station. When the pack ice came in, the ice inside the ridge 
moved north, permitting Captain Joe Bernard to bring his small 
powerboat, "Teddy Bear," along the beach and tie up to ground ice. 

Rasmussen had met the "Teddy Bear" near Point Hope, and 
hearing that she was walrus hunting, had chartered her to get 
Hansen at Barrow and have him take walrus pictures. Unfortu- 
nately, ice conditions prevented the "Teddy Bear" from leaving, 
once she'd reached us. 

Early in August, the wind hauled northeast and the "Lady 
Kinderly," trying to get under way, broke her rudder and began 
drifting northwest with the ice packing solidly around her. 

With vivid recollections of how the ice had gradually swept us 
away on the old "Navarch" in '97, I watched anxiously for the 



260 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

"Arctic" to steam to her aid. She didn't budge. Upon reaching her 
an hour later I saw why. She couldn't. But as I neared her, the crew 
. started blasting in an effort to get free of the surrounding ice and 
help the "Lady Kinderly" before it was too late. 

When we finally blasted the "Arctic" clear, the "Lady Kinderly" 
was s far into the pack that we couldn't get within twelve miles of 
her, and it began to look like another "Navarch" episode, only with 
this difference. Both the "Arctic" and "Lady Kinderly" were fitted 
with wireless. At least we could keep in touch. 

As there was little else that could be done at the time, we turned 
back to the Station and went about the prosaic business of dis- 
charging cargo. Only the first few lighters of gas and oil had been 
put ashore, however, when a shift of wind and ice sent the "Arctic" 
scurrying back to her old position for safety. 

There she stayed until August eleventh, her crew coming and 
going over the ice, her wireless talking with the "Lady Kinderly" 
which kept in sight for several days but was being forced farther 
into the pack all the time. 

Early the morning of the eleventh, the "Arctic's" protecting ice 
ridge was suddenly driven inshore and the ship herself jammed 
hard and fast. Then at five o'clock the end. 

With her whole starboard side crushed, we routed out all the 
able-bodied men of the village and put them to work salvaging 
whatever they could. By afternoon I had the ship's crew ashore and 
taken care of at the Station the men and their personal effects. 

Despite this, some had helped themselves generously to what- 
ever they could lay their hands on before quitting the ship. I didn't 
mind so much except for the example it set the natives. 

Coming up from the wreck that night, I met an Eskimo woman 
who had been working all day in the storeroom, passing out cloth 
and small articles. 

"What's that you've got in your bag?" I inquired. 

It was nothing, she said, staring ahead. Just a few little things 
of no value. 

"Let's see." 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 261 

Her "valueless" items consisted of eleven telescopes and one 
barometer, all new. Another bag being dragged home by a man 
yielded six dozen wood pipes and a miscellaneous assortment of 
woodworking tools. 

All this plunder was given up with placid smiles. When I ex- 
plained that it was my goods they had been stealing, both the man 
and woman insisted on lugging the stuff clear to the Station for me. 
That night several other Eskimos came trailing in to give up what 
"few little things" they, too, had thoughtlessly appropriated. None 
had considered his actions as stealing. It was just that some of the 
white men had helped themselves, so why shouldn't they? 

Meanwhile we set up the "Arctic's" wireless receiver -in the Sta- 
tion and kept in touch with the "Lady Kinderly," now somewhere 
off Cape Simpson. Those on board announced several times that 
they were planning to abandon her. We hoped they wouldn't, but 
could only hope, our means of communication being of the one-way 
variety. 

Learning from our receiving set that the Bureau of Education's 
ship "Boxer" was on the way north to help her, I quit worrying 
about the "Lady Kinderly" and determined to get to Nome some- 
how for more supplies. We were fixed all right at the Point but had 
our eastern stations to take care of, now that the "Arctic" had failed 
us. If things went smoothly, I thought I might even go on to 'Frisco. 

A northeast wind finally opened the ice and I started south on 
the "Teddy Bear," taking our shipwrecked crew along as well as 
Hansen, the photographer. He got a fine picture of the listed "Arc- 
tic" as we passed her stern held up by surrounding ice and all 
the Eskimos still working around in the water. At eleven that 
morning we met the northbound "Boxer," and came alongside to 
discuss with her skipper the best way for him to get the men off 
the "Lady Kinderly." Later, off Cape Lisburne, we passed the big 
"Bay Chimo" also going north. Between them all, chances looked 
good for the "Lady Kinderly's" crew. 

The "Teddy Bear" was small, and with ice to fight most of the 
way, it took us nineteen days from Barrow to Nome. We had hardly 



262 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

anchored when Tom Ross of the Coast Guard informed us that the 
"Boxer," with the "Lady Kinderly's" crew aboard, was due at 
Nome in just a few hours, having made the run from Barrow in 
five days. 

I felt ten years younger. But long before the first boat left for 
Seattle a wireless reached me that piled the years back on again. 
The message, relayed by the "Bay Chimo," was from our Dr. 
Griest at the hospital, saying that there was smallpox at Barrow 
and asking for vaccine. 

No way then existed of getting anything to Barrow except by 
the first winter mail, and the thought of what might be happening 
made me sick. The one bright spot was my confidence in Dr. Griest 
himself. 

It developed later that after the "Bay Chimo" had been there a 
while, with our natives mingling freely with the crew, one of the 
officers told Dr. Griest that they had smallpox aboard and he'd 
better come out and examine the men. 

Now, Dr. Griest was the most conscientious man we'd ever had 
at Barrow. As minister, he was absolutely sincere. As physician 
and surgeon, there were few his equal, even in civilization. When 
he learned the true situation on board, I can well understand that 
he was a very angry man as he slapped down a belated quarantine 
and tackled the disease with what old and probably worthless vac- 
cine he had on hand. At any rate, no deaths occurred, and only a 
few light cases developed on shore, mostly among children. 

Not knowing of this happy outcome at the time, I was more than 
glad to have Knud Rasmussen arrive at Nome and divert my mind. 

He had come to collect Eskimo stories and folklore, but wanted 
badly to cross to Siberia arid study the people at East Cape. When 
a reply to his wired request to the Soviet Government failed to 
arrive, he decided to take a chance, using letters he had from the 
Danish Government as well as from the Ambassador at Washing- 
ton. 

So he chartered the "Teddy Bear" and finally reached Emma 
Harbor, on the south side of East Cape. There a soldier first ordered 




Courtesy Arnold Lieber 



THE "ARCTIC" TIED UP TO THE ICE 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 263 

him away, then, impressed by the official looking papers he flashed, 
escorted him twelve miles across the Cape to Whalen, where he ex- 
plained what he wanted to the Soviet Governor. 

Fine! Would he stay for dinner? 

All seemed to be going well. But during the meal the Governor 
meditated deeply. At its end he pushed back and cleared his throat. 

He could understand, he said, a man wanting to mine gold or 
trade in furs, but since Rasmussen's only wish was to study a lot 
of dirty, lousy Eskimos, it was clear that he must be crazy. Where- 
upon, he ordered him deported at once. 

Poor Knud had to walk twelve miles to the "Teddy Bear" with 
his escort, and when at last he got back to Nome I never saw a 
more thoroughly disgusted man. 

He made up for it a few days later, though, when a bunch of woe- 
begone Eskimos from Nunavak Island reached Nome under a 
marshal's charge. They were the most primitive of people, and the 
dirtiest. But after they were clear of the court, Knud had the time 
of his life, practically living with them in order to get information 
at the source. Despite my anxiety over conditions at Barrow, I 
nearly died laughing at sight of Rasmussen trailing all over Nome 
with this pack at his heels dressed in every sort of outlandish skin 
garments the women with huge beads hung through their nos- 
trils. The recollection continued to cheer me up clear to San Fran- 
cisco. 

. Much Company business awaited me here, chiefly the purchase 
of a tender to replace the wrecked "Arctic." For this we bought 
the motorship "Caroline Frances," one of the strongest built vessels 
of her size I had seen and needing only certain alterations to adapt 
her for use in the ice. While these were going on, I made another of 
my "grand tours" through civilization, starting in Denver with a 
delightful visit with my friend Bailey, of the Colorado Museum of 
Natural History, and his wife. 

In New York I ran into Stef ansson who insisted on giving me a 
dinner and introducing me to a number of well-known scientists. 
I had a fine visit, too, with Dr. Hornaday, of the Bronx Park, to 



264 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

whom I had been sending specimens for years. Finally, I went to 
Washington for a conference with Dr. Taggert of the Bureau of 
Education. 

He thought that our schoolteacher at Barrow had enough to do 
without the postmaster's job tacked on. I agreed. Since there seemed 
no one else to take it over I ended by applying for the position, and 
eventually received my commission as postmaster after returning 
to Barrow. 

In going back, the Company planned for me to travel to Nome 
from Seattle on the "Victoria" and there board our new tender, the 
"Caroline Frances," which meanwhile had been on an initial trad- 
ing expedition to St. Lawrence Island. At Nome we were also to 
pick up Dr. Newhall and his wife who were bound for Barrow to 
relieve Dr. Griest. 

I had long since heard of our good luck there in escaping a serious 
smallpox epidemic, and with a fine vacation behind, looked forward 
eagerly to the trip north in our reconditioned tender. But when she 
hove in sight, I didn't recognize her. 

Her lines were familiar, but my glasses searched in vain for the 
former name on her bow. It didn't look like "Caroline Frances" 
tome. 

Suddenly a wave of almost childish pleasure swept over me so 
that my eyes watered and I felt all the emotions of a kid with his 
first birthday cake. 

In my absence they'd decided at 'Frisco to rechristen our new 
tender the "Charles Brower." 



CHAPTER XLVIII 

LATE the following January I received a wire at Barrow dated 
"New York, November thirteenth," and asking me to reserve for 
the sender all the aviation gas I had here and at Wainwright. It was 
signed, "Wilkins." 

George (now Sir Hubert) Wilkins had spent a few weeks with 
me in 1913 along with Stefansson. Since he also had been a member 
of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, I felt that I knew him quite 
well. But his reference to gas had me guessing until I remembered 
mentioning to Steff in New York that I had several drums of the 
stuff here and at Wainwright which belonged to Amundsen's ex- 
pedition. I still wondered what Wilkins was up to. 

Another wire arrived. He would be at Barrow the end of Febru- 
ary. Would I mark out a landing field and have clothing ready for 
three men? He added that his plane would be fitted with wheels. 

The end of February came, but no plane. I had begun to think 
he'd changed his plans when on March eleventh a representative 
of Wilkins named Hammond came in from Kotzebue with a load 
of supplies. 

The party, then at Fairbanks with two planes, was larger than I 
had supposed. It included, according to Hammond, two old friends 
of mine, Alex Smith and Earl Rossman, who were coming overland 
with snow motors hauling additional gasoline and a wireless outfit 
with which to keep in touch with the party when they flew out over 
the ice. 

That was the first word I'd had as to what the expedition was all 
about. I heard the rest three weeks later when a plane named the 
"Alaskan" appeared out of the northeast and landed in fine style, 
coming to a stop a few yards from the bank of the small lagoon 
south of our Station. 

Everybody gathered around to greet Wilkins and his aviator, 

265 



266 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Ben Eielson, as they climbed out. The pair had left Fairbanks that 
morning, flying over mountains "at least eleven thousand feet 
high." But instead of hitting Barrow on the nose, they had wan- 
dered out over the Arctic Ocean, then doubled back to Point Tan- 
gent and finally come in, as we had seen, from the northeast. 

We thought them lucky to get here from any direction. So, ap- 
parently, did they. One of their first acts was to rig up a wireless 
set which they had brought. It was only a little bit of a thing with 
a hand-operated dynamo, but it informed the world, via Fairbanks, 
of the safe arrival of Barrow's first airplane. 

Wilkins told me that his Detroit Arctic Expedition was being 
financed in Detroit by the North American Newspaper Alliance, 
with Stefansson, Dr. Bowman, himself and others as directors. 
Their purpose, he said, was to fly out over the ice and try to dis- 
cover new land. Failing that, they would keep on across the pole 
and land at Spitzbergen. Either seemed to me to offer a fairly for- 
midable program. 

What concerned me more immediately was when Wilkins said 
that Smith, Wasky and three other white men, including Rossman, 
now with the Pathe Company, were coming over the John's River 
Pass bringing a motion picture outfit and two more wireless sets 
one a very large one. He thought they'd get through all right, but 
he didn't know when. 

"What about those snow motors?" I asked. 

He shook his head. "No good. Got to bring our gas by plane. I'm 
going to fly back and forth between here and Fairbanks carrying 
all the fuel I can each time until we have enough to go out over the 
ice." 

Knowing that he was to start back for the first load next morn- 
ing, everyone turned out early. I think nothing better illustrates the 
difficulty of Arctic take-offs than what we went through the next 
few days while Wilkins tried to get into the air. 

First, the oil was too cold, requiring a tent rigged over the motor 
with a stove inside to keep everything warm all night. Next, we 
dug a path several hundred yards long going down to solid ice. With 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 267 

time out for stormy weather, all this took several days. 

However, he got away at last, carrying letters and packages and 
commissions to buy this and that, Nearly everybody wanted some- 
thing that had been brought over the mountains by plane. A few 
days later he flew back bringing thirty-five five-gallon cans of gas. 
Two more successful trips accumulated quite a supply. 

Meanwhile, Hammond, who had struck out eastward to meet the 
overland party, returned with Wasky and the smaller of the two 
wireless sets. The rest of the party, he said, would be in later but 
had had to leave the big set "somewhere on the Anaktuvuk River." 

That night Wasky erected his smaller outfit in the Station and 
I sent the first message over this set to Fairbanks. Then, with the 
solemn feeling that the world was shrinking fast, I sent another 
to San Francisco. 

Late next day Smith and Rossman, badly snow-blinded, stumbled 
into Barrow and accused Hammond of leaving them with nothing 
to eat, not even food for their dogs. 

Wilkins was bitterly disappointed over the probable loss of the 
big set. He said it made the whole trip a failure. 

"Sure we left it behind!" snapped Smith and Rossman. "Why 
not? Our dogs were starving, and so were we thanks to Hammond 
here." 

Voices rose high and it looked for a time like a rough-and-tumble, 
with no holds barred. I kept out of the row myself, seeing no use 
mixing in a situation where snow-blindness, frayed nerves and 
physical exhaustion undoubtedly had played their part. I think 
Wilkins felt the same. At any rate, he succeeded in smoothing 
things out between the men to the point where Smith agreed to go 
back for the big wireless set as soon as his eyes were better. 

Then Wilkins ran into trouble himself. Flying to Fairbanks for 
another load of gas, he got through all right but wirelessed us that 
in taking off for the return the "Alaskan" had smashed one of her 
wings. 

As we all sat around the stove, our thoughts on Wilkins at Fair- 
banks, exciting news came through from another direction. Amund- 



268 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

sen was at Spitzbergen awaiting good weather to fly over the North 
Pole in the dirigible "Norge." If successful, he hoped to land here 
at Barrow before continuing down the coast to Nome. 

It appeared the open season for explorers was on us. 

A week later we were arguing over the proper etiquette for re- 
ceiving dirigibles when word came that Byrd had just hopped off 
from Spitzbergen, flown to the Pole and returned safely, thereby 
beating Amundsen to it. No dirigibles for Barrow this year! So we 
thought. 

But on the eleventh of May Amundsen himself announced that 
he'd left Spitzbergen for Nome. 

Not knowing when to expect him, we had someone watching 
constantly until the next evening when a native rushed in about 
seven-thirty, yelling: 

"Airship! Airship!" 

It had been cloudy all day. Now, luckily, the northern sky was 
clear. Silhouetted against it, the "Norge" made an impressive pic- 
ture as she floated silently above the lead of water six miles out, 
slowly drawing closer but apparently not intending to land. The 
hour she remained in sight is fixed in my memory for all time. 

Of course, we all felt personal disappointment that the "Norge" 
never quite reached Nome, a storm forcing her down at Teller 
where she was deflated and later shipped outside. 

Not that we'd forgotten Wilkins. We were still waiting to hear 
if he'd got the "Alaskan" fixed, when one day a terrific clatter 
overhead brought us out pell-mell in time to see a three-motored 
plane pass north over the house and continue out to sea. Then, 
circling around, it came in and landed at Wilkins' regular place on 
the lagoon. When we made out the name, "Detroiter," we weren't 
at all surprised to see Wilkins climb out. 

He had a new pilot, Wisley, and had brought Major Lamphere 
along with him. None of them wanted to stay long. 

"Just long enough to look for land out there, Charlie," said 
Wilkins, sweeping his arm in the general direction of the Pole 
"then back to Fairbanks and home." 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 269 

I'll say this. Never did a man try harder. I don't know how many 
times he attempted to take off for his flight over the ice. It just 
wasn't in the cards. Somehow, the engines, when they ran at all, 
turned at different speeds, forcing the plane out of the track we'd 
built for it and into deep snow. 

This happened so often that at last there wasn't enough gas left 
for both a flight over the ice and a return to Fairbanks. Wilkins 
now faced the problem of getting his plane back home. 

We decided on another runway, a big gang shoveling one out 
forty feet wide and eleven hundred feet long. After waiting six 
days for a favorable weather report from Fairbanks, Wilkins de- 
cided it was now or never. 

The runway certainly looked fine. But I had seen them try so 
often that this time I never went near the place. Instead, I climbed 
up on top of the warehouse to watch from afar. 

I could hear the motors start. Then they stopped. Presently they 
started up again. Everyone going climbed aboard. The plane moved 
down the runway, gathered speed, and just at the very end managed 
to get off the ice in time to clear a rack used for drying bearskins. 
Circling once, she headed southeast and up through a hole in the 
clouds. 

A pretty sight! But one which I was sure marked the end of 
Wilkins' attempts to fly out over the ice. Not even the message he 
sent me later from Fairbanks changed my opinion. He said he was 
coming to Barrow next spring sure, and would have a new supply 
of gasoline shipped up here in my care. 

We all had a good laugh at that until the "Charles Brower" got 
in in July. Along with our regular supplies she brought Wilkins' 
gas and oil, which he never would have shipped without meaning 
business. 

Our tender brought an even bigger surprise to me in the person of 
Harry Riley, whom I had known back at San Francisco. 

"Hello, Charlie!" he sang out. "I'm here to relieve you!" 

"You're what?" 

"Yep. The Company wants you to come outside." 



270 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Now, I liked going south every once in a while. The only trouble 
was that each trip meant being away from home a whole year. A 
month or so would have suited me better. The winters always 
seemed so cold down there in the States. Nevertheless, I welcomed 
Harry's news and began to get ready to catch the "Charles B rower" 
after she came back from our eastern stations. 

But by the time I left on her in August, Harry's continued vague- 
ness as to why the Company was calling me back at just this time 
had me frankly worried. 



CHAPTER XLIX 

TOUCHING at Unalaska on the way down, we found the "Bear" in 
port but, like ourselves, intending to sail for 'Frisco in a day or so. 
I went over to pay my respects to Captain Cochran. 

"You and I haven't been shipmates in a good many years, 
Charlie," he reminded me, with a rare burst of sentiment. "What's 
the matter with sailing the rest of the way with me?" 

"Off-hand, I can't think of a thing," I grinned. 

When he added that this was the "Bear's" last trip as Coast 
Guard Cutter in these waters I got sentimental myself. I had been 
along the first trip she made under Captain Mike Healy, so it would 
be like helping round up her long career on the Alaskan coast. 

During our eleven-day run to 'Frisco, if the feeling came over 
me that this might be a rounding-up time for the Company, too ; a 
hurried call at the office confirmed it. 

Everything was upset. Tired of the whole Alaska enterprise, 
H. Liebes seemed determined to liquidate the business any way 
they could, despite the difficulty of digging up a purchaser for a 
string of fur stations on the edge of nowhere. But a few of us ob- 
jected to any such sweeping sacrifice. So again the directors were 
called together. After several days' talk, and the burning of much 
good tobacco, I suggested, 

"Let's send the tender north again with just enough outfit to 
fill the holes in our merchandise, and stick it out for another sea- 
son." 

More talk and smoke. At last, somewhat to my surprise, it was 
so ordered. I felt fine. What matter that I'd have to cut our ex- 
penses to fit a greatly reduced budget? It was enough to know 
that I'd soon be on the "Charles Brower" going north again where 
I belonged. 

We sailed the middle of June. In all the excitement of getting 

271 



272 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

under way I often had to stop and regard with quiet satisfaction a 
couple of young men we were taking with us my own son Dave, 
from San Diego, and the son of my old partner, Tom Gordon, who 
had been in San Francisco. It seemed fitting that this younger gener- 
ation should carry on the old friendship. 

By July third we had left Unalaska and were heading for St. 
Lawrence Island to pick up a few furs before going on to Nome. 
The trip had been routine to the point of monotony. In fact, I had 
hoped secretly for just a bit more excitement in order to show our 
boys what their dads had to go through in the old days. 

Nearing St. Lawrence Island, a fog caused our skipper to slow 
down and keep the lead going constantly. It seemed perhaps I'd 
have my wish, after all. But about four o'clock the weather cleared 
enough to reveal land dead ahead three miles away. With a sigh 
of relief the skipper called in the leadman, altered his course and 
rang for full speed ahead. He said he knew exactly where we were. 

Dinner was at five-thirty. As we sat placidly eating at the first 
table, all at once we shot out of our seats and sprawled on the floor, 
along with crashing crockery and spilled food. There was no "sec- 
ond table" that night. 

The ship had struck a sloping rock, slid up half her length and 
hung there, bumping every time a roller came in. Already pieces of 
her keel were ripping off. We could see them as they floated away. 
Our luck lay in the fact that the weather was light, with only a 
ground swell on at the time. The big job was to get afloat again be- 
fore the sea kicked up. 

After lowering the boats to lighten us as much as possible, we 
ran out the kedge anchor and tried to haul off. Nothing doing. The 
kedge wouldn't hold. But we did discover that there were only two 
and a half fathoms of water under our stern. Had the lead been go- 
ing we never would have got into such a fix. 

Meanwhile, our wireless sent out S.O.S. calls which were an- 
swered by the Coast Guard Cutter "Algonquin" and the yacht 
"Northern Light." The "Northern Light 7 ' belonged to Captain 
Borden of Chicago who, with his wife and a party of friends, hap- 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 273 

pened to be cruising in the vicinity on a hunting expedition. How- 
ever serious the mess our skipper had got us into, we knew that 
help wasn't too far away in case we couldn't get off by ourselves. 

Night came on with fog, and the light breeze freshened to a wind 
which kicked up a nasty swell that made us pound alarmingly. 
There seemed to be a ridge of rock right under our mainmast. Each 
time the ship raised and came down it looked as though the mast 
actually lifted, then dropped back into place. If the old "Charles 
Brower" hadn't been built like a battleship she'd never have stood 
that punishment. 

When all efforts to haul off astern only caused the kedge anchor 
to drag more, it seemed worthwhile trying it out ahead. So we 
shifted it to some deeper water off the port bow, ran out all the 
good hawser we had and got busy at the winch. It may hav^ been 
that the south wind raised the water a bit. All we knew or cared 
was that at the first turn of the winch the ship came off almost of 
her own accord. 

At the same time one of our small boats broke adrift and disap- 
peared to leeward in the blackness and fog. The mate made prepa- 
rations to go after it with our launch. When he needed a couple of 
men to go along, Dave and Tom Gordon's boy jumped forward. 

"Come back here, you boys!" I yelled. "Let the crew " 

Neither paid me the slightest attention, and, mad clean through, 
I heard them chug off into the fog. Then gradually my anger turned 
to nervousness, finally to fear. What chance was there of locating a 
small drifting boat out there in the night? Or even of finding their 
way back to the "Charles Brower"? For an anxious hour I paced 
the deck listening to the intermittent blasts of our whistle and do- 
ing a little "whistling in the dark" myself. 

Suddenly the launch wallowed out of the blackness and nosed 
alongside with the lost boat in tow. I don't know how they ever 
found it. But now that the boys were safe I got ready a few forceful 
remarks on disobedience. Then when they came over the side fol- 
lowed by the grinning mate, what I really said was: "A good jot> 
menl" 



274 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

In my time I should probably have done the same thing exactly. 

The "Northern Light" reached us shortly afterwards, and com- 
ing as close as he dared Captain Borden asked if we needed help. 

We thanked him but answered no. Our hull, we explained, didn't 
seem to be badly damaged and the pumps were handling what few 
leaks had developed. 

Just the same he stayed close by the rest of the night as we stood 
slowly offshore with our lead now going constantly. 

Next morning, limping into Gamble, the village at the northeast 
end of the island, we anchored and took a daylight look under the 
stern. The rudder was twisted. Outside of that it was impossible to 
see much wrong although we knew from the crazy way she'd been 
steering that something must be hanging loose beneath. 

What this was remained a mystery until we limped slowly into 
Nome and secured the services of an ex-diver then working for a 
mining company. His report wasn't reassuring. The skeg under the 
rudder was completely gone, the rudder, twisted and split, hung 
only in the pintles and all that remained of the after part of the 
keel were several large pieces which stuck out and made her steer 
hard. A little more pounding on that rock would have stove in her 
bottom sure. 

While having a general survey made we communicated with San 
Francisco, and they with the insurance people. Their final decision: 
we could proceed cautiously if we first made certain temporary re- 
pairs and promised at no time to get into the ice. 

So we constructed a makeshift rudder out of planks and spars, 
strengthened by a couple of chains on each side, and on July twenty- 
sixth once more turned north along the coast. . . . Five days later 
the "Charles Brower" crawled slowly past Utkiavie and anchored 
off our Station. 

That nerve-racking trip was something new for me in the line 
of Arctic mishaps. It would have been for Tom Gordon, too, had 
he been along. But our sons took it in their stride. 



CHAPTER L 

AMONG the unopened letters awaiting my return to Barrow was 
one from Captain Wilkins. It stated that he and Ben Eielson were 
planning to arrive in March for another try at flying out over the 
ice. They might go on to Spitzbergen if conditions looked good. 
I glanced at the date. It had been mailed seven months beforel 
"What about Wilkins?" I asked. "Did he get here?" 
"Sure did/ 7 several answered. "He and Eielson." 
After everyone had put in his two cents' worth I pieced together 
as thrilling a vignette of Arctic adventure as anything I'd heard. 

Their arrival in March had ushered in the usual long train of 
preparatory mishaps. But about six o'clock on the morning of 
March twenty-ninth they took off from Barrow and flew northwest 
on the old quest for new land. Engine trouble forced them down a 
long way out, but they got aloft again. 

Five hundred miles from land further engine trouble brought 
them down on the ice ; this time at about latitude seventy-six north , 
longitude one hundred seventy-five west. Here Wilkins took sound- 
ings. If I remember correctly he found a depth of five thousand 
four hundred forty meters, or nearly three and a half miles the 
deepest water ever recorded in the Arctic Ocean. With an anxious 
look at their diminishing gas supply, the two men tinkered their 
engine into running smoothly, then headed straight for home. 

They might have made it without incident except for two things 
more engine trouble, and a shift of wind to the northeast which 
held them back like a giant brake. 

I could imagine them sitting up there watching the gauge as dark- 
ness closed in and the wind increased to a gale and the universe 
turned bitterly cold. There came a moment when they knew it was 
no use. 

With only a few drops of gas left, Eielson turned, inquiringly, 
and heard above the sputtering engine: 

275 



276 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

"All right, bring her down." 

Ben let her glide into the wind as both men braced themselves 
for a blind landing without power. So they dropped through the 
dark, trusting to the one chance in a hundred that they wouldn't 
hit some high ice and wreck everything. 

They didn't. It was a close shave, though, one wing clipping a 
jagged peak which swerved the plane so that when they spun to a 
landing all they broke was a ski. 

Daylight revealed this "landing field" to be a small piece of level 
ice completely surrounded by high ridges which discouraged any 
take-off even if the tanks had been full. It looked like a case of walk 
or die. 

Bad weather kept them penned up in their icy crater for several 
days. They spent the time building a small, makeshift sled, in the 
course of which Ben froze the fingers of one hand. The wind finally 
hauled northwest, then west. Realizing that they must start now or 
never, they loaded all the food and extra clothing the sled would 
carry and set out from the plane, traveling south. 

As I sat there in comfort listening to the boys repeat Wilkins' 
account of their trip over the drifting pack, I could visualize my 
own shipwrecked crew that terrible summer of '97. How well I 
recognized all the details! Coming unexpectedly to an open lead 
searching for a way around finally ferrying across on bobbing 
ice perhaps breaking through, just as Ben had done at one place, 
only to be fished out by Wilkins after considerable trouble. And 
I could appreciate Ben's ordeal of trying to change his wet clothing 
in the open with the thermometer below zero. 

I was with them in spirit, too, when heavy pressure ridges forced 
them to abandon the sled and carry their stuff in packs. I remem- 
bered those ridges; how all the ice slabs seemed set on end, with 
soft snow between into which you plunged to your neck; how you 
had to crawl on your belly at two miles a day, never sure the pack 
wasn't carrying you faster in the opposite direction. 

All this was the price Wilkins and his pilot paid the Arctic for 
the privilege of hunting new lands. And Ben's frozen fingers must 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 277 

have added exquisite agony to the cost. Wilkins' ability to build 
snow shelters and eat over a small lamp undoubtedly saved Ben's 
life and probably his own. 

On April fourteenth, twelve days after quitting their plane and 
at least a hundred miles farther east the pair reached land near 
Beechey Point. 

"Doc Newhall had to amputate Ben's little finger," someone 
explained, "otherwise both men were fine. Captain Wilkins went 
right back to Fairbanks. Said he was going to fix up his big plane 
and hire another pilot to try it again next spring." 

But much was to happen at Barrow before that. 

Early on the morning of January eighteenth our schoolhouse 
burned down. Mr. and Mrs. Vincent, the teachers, awakened by 
smoke, had done their best to check the flames which probably 
started from a defective chimney. In fact, he'd been seriously 
gassed, and his wife almost perished ringing the bell before they 
left the building. The assistant, Ethel Sage, barely escaped being 
trapped; and once out, she had to make her way through sub-zero 
weather to the nearest house clad only in her night clothes. 

By the time I got there the building was doomed. Practically 
nothing could be saved. Even the bell cracked from the heat. I felt 
mighty sorry for the teachers in particular because all three lost 
everything they owned. 

The fire, together with an unusual influx of red foxes which made 
white ones scarce that winter, left me facing spring in a rather 
somber mood. I almost regetted having ordered enough supplies on 
my own hook to keep Barrow going another year. But the return of 
Wilkins on March nineteenth put a sudden end to this sickly brood- 
ing. His enthusiasm made me ashamed of myself. When he and 
Eielson swooped out of the sky, it was like a breath of cold, brain- 
clearing air. 

Not even the letter he brought me from the Company seemed 
very important. If they had sold the "Charles Brower" to a Rus- 
sian company, and refused to send any more outfits up here, and 
insisted that I dispose of the other stations as best I could, it was 



278 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

no more than I had expected. Perhaps I could arrange somehow to 
take them over as an independent operator. 

I stuffed the letter in my pocket and turned to examine the fine 
new Lockheed Vega plane with which I'd fallen in love at first 
sight. 

"Well, what's your program?" I asked Wilkins, as we walked up 
to the Station. 

"Charlie, this time we're going to Spitzbergen or bust." 

Late in March I had a crowd of men clear a four-thousand-foot 
runway on the small lagoon, but bad weather prevented any take- 
off attempt until April seventh. That ended with a broken ski and 
the discovery that four thousand feet was too short a run to get 
them into the air with their three-thousand-pound load. So we 
pumped the gas from the wing tanks, hauled the plane back with 
dog-teams, substituted wooden skis for the iron ones, and within 
a few days had the Lockheed ready for another try. 

Again she failed to rise at the end of the runway and piled up 
over the far bank as before. Fortunately, nothing broke. But twice 
in the same place was enough for Wilkins. That same afternoon he 
had the plane hauled to the big lagoon and all hands pitched in 
building a new and longer runway. Since the big lagoon ran clear 
to Point Tangent, a good thirty miles east, Wilkins came in for some 
kidding. 

"Just keep 'er in the runway, Captain, and you'll be at Spitz- 
bergen before you know it." 

The men worked late into the night. Next day we put on a larger 
crew. The runway grew so long that even Wilkins was satisfied and 
decided to take off the following morning. When I pointed out that 
that would be the thirteenth of the month, hence unlucky, he 
laughed and went ahead getting ready, anyhow. 

The "thirteenth was unlucky. Same old story too short a run- 
way. 

Getting Wilkins off the ground now became a challenge to all of 
us. I sent twenty-three more men out there, and next day another 
thirty-five in addition to all I could muster farther out on the Point. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 279 

We'd get him into the air if we had to shovel a path to Tangent! 

It was slow, back-breaking labor, clearing that fifteen-foot run- 
way of snow two feet deep. Most of it had to be cut out in blocks 
with saws, carried far enough back to prevent the wings of the 
plane from hitting, then the rest of the surface cleaned with shovels. 
Wilkins worked along with the rest, and harder than most, until 
the runway stretched out a mile and a quarter. 

This, he said, was long enough. They'd start in the morning. 

When morning came the spirit was willing but Wilkins was still 
so exhausted from his labor that I persuaded him to get another 
day's rest. 

Before turning in that night, he took the receiving set out of his 
plane and gave it to Mr. Vincent, asking him to listen in each hour 
from ten in the morning and try to catch the messages he'd send. 

We were all up early. Fred had a big breakfast ready and their 
thermos bottles filled with something hot. At six o'clock they left 
for the plane with dog-teams. It was ten, however, before they taxied 
down the runway, the rest of us craning our necks as the plane 
roared along the narrow strip of cleared ice and grew small in the 
distance. We. expected them to rise any second now. When they 
didn't I thought sure we were in for another session of road- 
building. 

But at the very end, instead of piling up in the snow they rose 
clear with all their load, headed out over the Point, then turned 
east for their flight towards Greenland and elusive Spitsbergen far 
beyond. 

Mr. Vincent went to church that day, so failed to listen in until 
afternoon. But from four o'clock on he heard Wilkins almost every 
hour until the plane neared Greenland. Some of the messages he 
didn't get right, but most, I think, were correct. At any rate, here 
they are, just as he put them down. 

4 P. M. K.Z.D. ONE HOUR. NO CLOUDS. NOT YET OVER MOUNTAINS. 

5 P. M. K.Z.D. ABOVE CLOUDS, SKINNING THE TOPS. NOW IN LATI- 

TUDE 80. ALL O.K. 



280 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

6 P. M. K.ZJD. OVER (SOMETHING) CLOUDS AHEAD. K.Z.D. 
6:20 P. M. K.Z.D. CLEAR NOW, BUT COLD. FOG AHEAD. 

7 P. M. K.Z.D. O.K. SO FAR. 300 MILES FROM GRANTS LAND. 

8 P. M. NO MESSAGE, 

9 P. M. WE ARE O.K. WILKINS ARCTIC EXPEDITION. 100 MILES FROM 

GRANTS LAND. 

10 P. M. K.Z.D. CLEAR BUT CLOUDS AHEAD. 

11 P. M. CLOUDS. STORMY HERE BUT WE ARE NOT FAR FROM COAST. 

12 M. NO MESSAGE. 

1 :20 A. M. K.Z.D. WILKINS ARCTIC EXPEDITION. GREENLAND STORM. 

2 A. M. MESSAGE TOO WEAK TO BE TAKEN GOT TWO WORDS OUT 

TANKS. 

3 :30 A. M. HEARD TOO FAINTLY TO UNDERSTAND. 

3 '. 50 A. M. SILENT TRIP TO HERE. 17j4 HOURS. 



That three-thirty message, too faint to be understood, was the 
last we heard from Wilkins for nearly a month. 

All the while we wen about telling one another that since they'd 
made Greenland, why, of course they'd got the rest of the way, 
Privately, some of us had our doubts. Those phrases like "Green- 
land storm" and "out tanks" took on ominous significance as the 
weeks passed. 

When a plane appeared at half past two the afternoon of May 
fourteenth our first thought was that Wilkins had returned. In- 
stead, two strangers climbed stiffly out the aviator, Noel Wien, 
and a Mr. Hart. 

But if a shade of disappointment tinged our welcome it didn't 
last long. The package of mail Hart handed me contained some- 
thing that brought a yell from all of us. It was a long-delayed wire 
from Wilkins himself announcing their safe arrival at Spitzbergen 
weeks before. 

The hilarity of the occasion was hardly lessened when Hart inno- 
cently informed us that "none of the messages Wilkins sent during 
his trip got through." 



CHAPTER LI 

As SOON as our first excitement had died down, the new arrivals ex- 
plained that they were part of a group coming to Barrow to get 
motion pictures of the Eskimos 7 spring whaling. Would we help? 

"Hollywood is a little out of our line/ 7 I grinned, "but we'll do 
what we can. Where are the others?" 

"Well, we don't exactly know/' Hart admitted. "You see . . ." 

The party had left Fairbanks the day before in two planes, but 
after getting over some high mountains had been forced down by 
fog. Besides a pilot named Merrill, the other plane carried a couple 
of camera men -Charlie Clarke from Hollywood, and a Captain 
Robinson who once had made a picture in southeastern Alaska 
called "Alaskan Adventure." Luckily, said Hart, the planes had 
come down together "on a frozen lake with high bluffs all around." 

"About a hundred miles from here," the other added. "That's 
where we spent last night." 

In the morning they had tried repeatedly to take off, but with 
such heavy loads all they accomplished was to burn up a lot of 
good fuel. When only enough remained for one plane, Hart, who 
was in charge, decided that they'd transfer it all to NoePs plane, 
the larger wheel tires of which didn't sink into the snow so far. This 
enabled Noel and Hart to get into the air. The plan agreed on 
seemed simple enough at the time. They'd fly to Barrow for gas, 
then return and get the others. 

Not knowing just where Barrow lay, Noel and Hart flew north 
until they saw a herd of deer near the coast. After that they followed 
the coastline west, finally spotted several houses and here they 
were. 

"So if you'll let us have some gas," said Hart, "I'd like to get 
those fellows out of there today." 

The cook fixed them something to eat while their plane was 

281 



282 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

being fueled, then off they went, expecting to locate their friends 
without much trouble. At eleven-thirty that night they returned 
alone. 

"We picked up the reindeer camp all right," Noel reported, "but 
hanged if we could find our lake anywhere. Well, they'll have to 
wait till tomorrow, that's all" 

They tried again next afternoon, and after flying all over that 
part of the country got back around ten again alone. 

I questioned them carefully. Were they sure it hadn't taken 
longer to reach the deer camp than they had thought when they 
first came out? And how about the wind? That would make a dif- 
ference, too. 

From what they said now it seemed to me that the lost plane 
might be farther south than they had estimated; perhaps even 
south of the Tashicpuk River and near the Colville. 

Fog prevented any more attempts for several days. But we put 
the delay to some use by replacing their landing wheels with Wil- 
kins 7 broken skis which we managed to patch up. Then when this 
job was done and everything ready for another try, a howling gale 
set in from the northeast and held them on the ground until the 
twenty-second. 

By this time all Barrow was worked up over the plight of the 
lost party. They had clothing of a kind, and rifles, and there were 
deer in the country, but would a pilot and two camera men ever 
guess how easily a fire can be kindled from moss dug up under two 
feet of snow? Probably not. 

I had another long talk with Hart. At its close he jumped at my 
offer to send some natives and dog-teams to the deer camp, having 
them spread out from there and cover as much ground to the south 
as they could. 

Six teams left on May twenty-third. Early that evening Noel 
and Hart, restless, took to their plane again and tried to get off 
with a considerable load of gas. They couldn't make it. Finally, 
Hart climbed out, after which Noel managed to get aloft and 
started to hunt by himself. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 2&3 

We sat up that night. We scanned the sky all next day. Noel 
failed to return. So now we had Noel to worry about, too. Around 
nine in the evening the sudden hope raised by the roar of a motor 
coming in from the south was short-lived. It wasn't Noel's plane 
but a smaller one piloted by Matt Nieminen. Hearing nothing from 
the expedition since it left Fairbanks, those remaining behind had 
hired Matt to fly up from Anchorage and send back word if any- 
thing was wrong. To this end Matt had brought along a wireless 
outfit as well as an expert to set it up for all the good that did. 
The equipment had something wrong somewhere. Not a message 
went out. 

In the midst of all these successive disappointments a message 
came through from Kotzebue announcing that Nobile had just 
started on his flight and might even then be at the North Pole. 

I don't believe the news of any historical event ever caused less 
stir among men who should have been vitally interested. Matt and 
Hart hardly glanced up when I told them. They were planning 
flights of greater importance to themselves and all of us. 

Later, they made several one as far as the east side of Smith's 
Bay but found no signs of Noel or any of the others. 

Then, the evening of the thirtieth, when Noel had been gone a 
week and we'd about given him up, back he came flying low through 
the fog. 

That was when I made a solemn resolve never to worry again 
about anything. The way he described them, Noel's adventures 
had consisted mostly in waiting comfortably for fogs to lift. 

When he left us the week before, he located the deer herd but 
was grounded there four days before being able to circle south 
through the Colville River district. There the fog closed in again. 
This time, instead of landing, he got back to the coast and holed in 
at Cape Halkett. He made one more flight inland, then came back 
to Barrow without, as he thought, accomplishing a thing. But in 
this he was wrong. At Halkett he had met an Eskimo who gave us 
our first real lead. 

This native said that while camped at the east end of the Tashic- 



284 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

puk nearly three weeks before, two planes had passed overhead 
bound for the coast. Pretty soon they came back and disappeared 
into the south. It was on a Sunday. He remembered that distinctly 
because the members of his party were all in camp. So this checked 
with my own theory that the two planes had come down farther 
south than Noel and Hart thought. 

On the strength of the Eskimo's report, John Hegness, who ran 
the Station at Halkett, promised Noel that he'd send several natives 
inland and would himself search all along the coast. John was con- 
vinced that the men, if alive, would have tried long since to reach 
the coast on foot. 

I thought so, too. Some of the others still favored another search 
inland as soon as weather permitted. 

When June second broke clear, Matt and his wireless man took 
off in one plane, Noel and Hart in the other. Their plan was to 
zigzag far to the southeast, at the same time keeping together for 
fear of getting lost themselves. 

After several hours of flying, Matt sighted the lost plane resting 
on a small frozen lake with high bluffs, just as Noel and Hart had 
described it. He landed at once, the other crew coming down 
near by. 

They found the plane abandoned. But on top of the cameras and 
other equipment lay a note dated May twenty-fourth and signed 
by Merrill: 

"Clarke and Robinson left May nineteenth for coast and Bar- 
row. I am leaving today. Following the same course." 

While Matt and the others stood talking things over, the first 
Eskimos that I had sent out from Barrow with dog-teams suddenly 
appeared at the lake. These boys had seen the planes a mile or so 
away, watched them land, and now came hurrying up to learn what 
had happened. 

After transferring the cameras and other stuff to the high banks 
of the lake and covering them up so as to save at least something 
in case the lake ice thawed, the four white men took off for the 
coast again, leaving the Eskimos to follow with their dog-teams. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 285 

This time the planes separated in order to cover more ground. 
Noel and Hart weren't even in sight when Matt picked up the 
tracks of two men going north. He followed them quite easily for a 
while, then kept losing and finding them in a tantalizing manner 
until they disappeared for good. He and the wireless man continued 
on to the coast anyhow, and turned west as their gas was getting 
low. 

Skirting the coastline, they had reached a point about halfway 
between Cape Simpson and Point Tangent when all at once Matt 
saw something beneath them that made him swing back in a U-turn 
and fly low for a closer look. . . . 

Next moment he landed his plane within twenty-five yards of 
where two men staggered along blindly, helping each other as best 
they could. 

It was Clarke and Robinson. Both were snow-blind and so 
blistered that their noses and lips would have made them unrecog- 
nizable to their closest friends. Besides this, Robinson had frozen 
two toes, while Clarke had so injured the tendons of his leg that 
only a small piece of driftwood lashed under that foot enabled him 
to hobble at all. 

Matt turned to the wireless man: 

"She won't carry the whole crowd." 

"That's all right. I'll stay here." 

"Good. I'll be back to pick you up soon's I can make it." 

So they bundled the injured men into the plane and Matt made 
a quick flight to Barrow and the hospital. 

Dr. Newhall found that while Robinson's toes weren't badly 
frozen, Clarke had wrenched his leg tendons so severely that he'd 
lost all control of that foot. Without the driftwood brace, it flopped 
around any old way. Aside from this and the frightful condition of 
their faces which cracked and bled profusely from the indoor 
warmth, the men weren't so badly off. 

That they seemed only moderately hungry surprised us as much 
as anything until they mentioned the leftover food in a trapper's 
cabin on Smith's Bay which they reached four days after quitting 



286 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

the plane. Here they ate and rested for quite a while before starting 
west along the coast. 

Had they just kept on, we might have found them much sooner. 
But, coming to some low mud flats, they figured that they had 
wandered out to sea on the ice. This turned them back inland for 
a needless four-day detour before coming out on the coast again. 
They kept up their strength in the meanwhile with food brought 
from the cabin, supplemented by eggs which they found in the 
nests of snowy owls. 

It was their blistered faces and Clarke's bad leg that caused their 
greatest suffering. And according to Dr. Newhall, these were things 
that would take careful nursing. 

As Matt climbed into his plane to fly back for the wireless man, 
I caught him grinning to himself. 

"A good job, Matt/' I said. 

He tossed it aside with something about "luck/' and went on, 

"I was thinking of the first words Clarke said to me when we 
found him. 'This/ he said, 'is the first time I ever gave the Grand 
Hailing sign, and I hope t'hell I never have to give it again] ' We're 
both Masons. See?" 



CHAPTER LII 

LOCATING the wireless man where he'd been left cooling his heels 
on the beach literally cooling them, too Matt brought him back 
to Barrow, and an hour later Noel and Hart flew in with faces a 
yard long. 

Their relief on learning that Clarke and Robinson were here safe 
affected the pair in opposite ways. Hart, half sick with anxiety for 
days, now acquired so terrific a headache that it knocked him out 
completely. To Noel the good news was like a shot in the arm. 

"Give us some more gas, Charlie," he pleaded. "Fill 'em up 
both planes 1 By God, we're going back and find Merrill or know 
the reason why!" 

"But Hart's all in," someone reminded him. 

At this my son, Dave, elbowed to the front and insisted on going 
along as Noel's observer. For once I kept my mouth shut. 

Both planes, refueled from the hospital warehouse, left around 
midnight. 

" I had my own doubts about a fast-flying plane spotting Merrill 
on the beach. Assuming that he had followed the others to the 
coast, I doubted if he could get much further after days of tramp- 
ing through the same soft deep snow that had left Clarke and 
Robinson in pitiful condition. Half hidden in some rough shelter 
was where I felt the man would be found, if at all. 

And so before the planes took off I sent out a couple more sleds 
along the sandspits, telling the boys to investigate all sheltered 
places with special reference to the ragged shores of Dease Inlet. 

At three in the morning the planes got back. From the strained 
faces of their crews and Noel's cryptic, "Lucky this country of 
yours is level," it was soon clear why they brought no word of 
Merrill. They'd run into thick fog and had had to fly so low that 
most of the way home they were barely clearing the ground. 

287 



288 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

On June fourth three dog teams approached from the east. Two 
we recognized in the distance as the ones I had sent out last. Sud- 
denly we all started on the run to meet them. The third team, we 
now saw, was being driven by John Hegness from Halkett Station, 
and on the sled was a bundled up form resembling a dead man. 

He had Merrill, all right. But Merrill wasn't dead by a long 
shot. After looking him over at the hospital Dr. Newhall announced 
that except for snow-blindness Merrill seemed in far better shape 
than either Clarke or Robinson when they were brought in. 

This, we all thought at the time, was probably due to the calm- 
ness with which he had faced a dangerous situation, taking things 
easy and apparently never doubting that he'd reach Barrow if he 
kept walking long enough. I thought perhaps a lack of imagination 
had helped. And Merrill's experience, as he described it, seemed 
to bear this out. 

Before leaving the grounded plane he had written his note and 
made sure that everything was properly protected against the 
weather. Then he started north with some bedding and a rifle. 
After wading through the deep snow a couple of miles, he figured 
he'd do better traveling light. So he returned to the plane, neatly 
deposited his bedding and rifle with the other things and started 
out again. 

A day or so later he wasn't sure how-long he found the tracks 
made by Clarke and Robinson after they had turned north the 
second time. He followed this trail clear to the coast, then west 
until the tracks ended. 

"I was pretty sure the others had been picked up," he explained. 
"It was quite a help to know that somebody had been looking 
for us." 

Still he kept taking things easy on the chance that he might have 
to walk all the way to Barrow yet. The only thing that got him 
down, he said, was once when a plane flew almost directly over- 
head without seeing him. That, he admitted, was hard to take. 

Like the others, Merrill had been finding occasional nests of 
snowy owls and eating the eggs. But he varied this by catching 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 289 

some lemmings and eating these, too. "Lemmings," he explained, 
"aren't so bad if you're hungry enough. 'Specially the hind 
quarters." 

Finally he came to a small cabin on a sandspit and rested there 
quite a while, making several leisurely meals off some old whale 
meat he found before plodding west again. 

"I must have gone three or four miles," he said, "when it struck 
me that the hind quarters of a couple of lemmings that I'd brought 
along might not be enough to last all the way to Barrow. There was 
some whale meat left in the cabin and I couldn't decide whether to 
go back for it or not. Funny I couldn't decide, wasn't it? But it 
didn't matter because just then along came John, here, and picked 
me up." 

According to Merrill that was all there had been to the rescue. 
He didn't mention one small detail that I got from John later. 

When he came up with his team, John said that Merrill didn't 
seem to realize that his troubles were at an end. He looked the 
outfit over and asked, rather hesitant, 

"I wonder if I can hire you to take me to Barrow?" 

It was the first time in a good many years that John had come so 
close to bawling. He said he couldn't say a word for a minute. Then 
it made him sore to choke up that way and first thing he knew he 
blurted out: 

"Get aboard, y' damned fool! Who th' hell d'y' think I'm looking 
for, anyway?" 

From his excellent physical condition I felt sure Merrill would 
have got here all right afoot if nobody had found him. We all 
thought so. That was why Dr. Newhall was as puzzled as any of 
us by the way matters turned out. 

Excerpts from my diary tell the rest, so far as facts are con- 
cerned. The reasons behind them? Your guess is as good as mine 
or Dr. NewhalPs. 

June 5 Noel and Hart flew to lost plane. They brought back all 
the cameras, also the propeller. Men in hospital doing fine. 



290 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

June 8 Clarke and Captain Robinson walked over to the Station. 
Both very thin, otherwise getting along all right. Merrill not 
so well as the others. Seems weaker than at first. 

June 14 Noel, Hart and Matt made another trip and brought in 
lost plane. Now that everything belonging to party is safe, 
Hart plans to leave for outside. Will take some of party along. 
Nothing they can do here, as whaling is over. Maybe Robinson 
will go to Wainwright later and get walrus pictures. Queer 
about Merrill. He's getting weaker all the time simply wast- 
ing away. Nobody knows what ails the man. 

June ? Two planes left this evening, Matt for Anchorage, Noel 
for Fairbanks. Noel took Clarke along. Merrill in bad way. 
Losing strength. Can't even sit up now. 

July 4 Noel Wien and his brother Ralph, also an aviator, arrived 
from Nome to take Merrill home. Only place he wants to go. 
Talking continuously about wife and baby. 

July 5 Fine weather. Both planes tuned up. Noel left for Wain- 
wright with Robinson to get walrus pictures. Ralph took Mer- 
rill to Kotzebue in his own (Merrill's) plane. We bundled him 
up and put him aboard on a stretcher. So weak and helpless 
now that it was decided the nurse, Miss Morgan, would have 
to go along. All hands down to see him off. Afraid that's the 
last of Merrill. But why? A strange case. 



CHAPTER LIII 

TONY EDWARDSON ran our Beechey Point Station where he lived 
with his Eskimo wife and their two small boys. I thought a good 
deal of Tony. I had for years. 

When a native came through from the East in the early spring 
of 1929 with word that both Tony and the woman were in a bad 
way it gave me something of a shock. 

"Who's taking care of them?" I asked. 

An Eskimo boy and girl. 

Now, Beechey Point is east of Harrison Bay, and while it served 
us well as a fur station, I could think of no worse place for a family 
with small children to be sick. As quickly as possible I sent one of 
the men with a good dog-team to bring them all to Barrow where 
they could be looked after properly. 

Our man got as far as Cape Halkett only to meet a party of 
Eskimos bringing Tony and the little boys to me. The mother, it 
seemed, had died the first day put from Beechey Point. They had 
buried her somewhere along the shore of Harrison Bay. And here 
sat Tony on the sled, staring straight ahead, paralyzed, unable to 
move hand or foot. 

I knew nothing of all this, of course, until John Hegness, in 
charge of Halkett, appeared at Barrow with the remnants of the 
Edwardson family. 

"Figured I'd better bring 'em along myself, Charlie," he ex- 
plained. "His wife's dead, and Tony's pretty bad off." 

We put the sick man in the hospital at once, and though they 
tried every way to make him comfortable nothing seemed to do 
much good. Later, when capable Dr. Griest, who had been outside, 
returned to take up his duties with us again, he and the doctor from 
the Coast Guard Cutter held a long consultation. 

Both came away shaking their heads. The man, they agreed, had 

291 



292 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

a blood clot on the brain. Then I knew as well as they that it was 

only a matter of time. 

When Tony died in September, it seemed the least I could do 
was take his two boys into my home until a place could be found 
for them with some family in need of children. 

That was the fall when the great depression began wrecking 
fortunes overnight. By 1930 enough news had come through to 
convince all of us that the rest of the country was in for a mighty 
serious time. But Barrow, we thought, was so many thousands of 
miles away from the panic that all we need do was go about our 
hunting and trapping as usual and forget the foolishness of civiliza- 
tion. That was the advantage of dealing with dumb animals who 
didn't know a depression when they saw one, instead of being de- 
pendent on dumb financiers. So we patted ourselves on the back 
and got ready for a new season which we hoped would prove our 
best. 

It turned out to be the worst we'd ever experienced since going 
into the fur business. When I think back to that spring of 1930 I'm 
ready to believe that world conditions exerted some strange "hedg- 
ing" effect on every Arctic animal that normally yielded us a living. 
They just weren't there. Afraid to come out of their holes, perhaps, 
like the rest of the universe! Even the Eskimos' whaling went by 
the board. Thus the depression was brought squarely home to the 
natives themselves who still depended on whale meat and blubber 
to see them through. 

A dismal air still hung over Barrow when the "Paterson" put in 
that summer and my old friend Captain Pedersen came ashore for 
our usual "gamming" session. I'm afraid it wasn't much of a 
success. 

"What you need," he said, at last, "is to come outside a while 
and see for yourself that the United States is still afloat. I'm going 
straight to 'Frisco. What d'y' say, Charlie?" 

I threw some duds mostly soiled into a bag and was aboard 
the "Paterson" long before she sailed. 

We landed at San Francisco. That winter I indulged in another 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 293 

of my leisurely "grand tours 7 ' of the country, renewing old acquaint- 
ances and making it a point to soak up new experiences like a 
sponge. 

One of these was not without its long-remembered moments of 
excitement. Some well-meaning friends in Chicago had arranged 
for me to give my first talk over the radio. I did. But in retrospect 
it proved an experience notable chiefly for the vast sense of relief 
it brought me at the close. No doubt my listeners felt the same. 

Before leaving San Francisco homeward bound for Seattle, there 
to catch the steamship "Victoria" to Nome, I had read newspaper 
accounts of Lindbergh and his trip across the northern part of 
Canada. This meant that he might well skirt the Arctic coast as 
far as Barrow before heading south. So I let him know that if he 
wanted any gas landed there I'd be glad to take care of it for him. 
He thanked me and accepted the offer. 

Reaching Nome, I transferred to the cutter "Northland" which 
sailed after taking aboard the gas I had ordered for Lindbergh. We 
heard nothing more from him direct, and I only hoped Fd get home 
in time to meet him. But on August eighth the "Northland" picked 
up a wireless message from Morgan, our operator at Barrow. Lind- 
bergh, it said, was leaving the Mackenzie River that same day. 

Near midnight came further word from Barrow. The Lind- 
berghs had just arrived safely and their ship was lying in the small 
lagoon near the Station. How simple it sounded coming over the 
ether Mackenzie River to Barrow! A thousand or more miles of 
Arctic wilderness in only a few hours ! 

I didn't know until afterwards that he had run into thick fog 
near the mouth of the Colville River and flown blind the rest of 
the way; or that at the very end he had come close to missing 
Barrow entirely. 

The trouble was that while he found Point Barrow in the fog, 
he was stumped by the lack of anything resembling a wireless sta- 
tion. Like most people, he'd thought that Barrow was the same 
as Point Barrow, instead of being the name given to the postoffice 
at the settlement around our Station nine miles south. 



294 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

Luckily, one of our men happened to be at the Point ^with his 
boats, and as Lindy circled overhead he waved him south to our 
lagoon. 

What tickled our operator, Morgan, the most was Mrs. Lind- 
bergh's delight at finding that he'd picked up a message she had 
sent on their short wave set while the plane flew blind through that 
Colville River fog. 

Next day, as we on the "Northland" continued steaming up the 
coast, Lindy sent us word that he had plenty of fuel so wouldn't 
need any of the gas we were bringing. Nevertheless, when it was 
apparent that the "Northland" could never make Barrow before 
the plane left, the captain decided to put in at Wainwright and 
wait. 

Two days later, while we were approaching Wainwright, Morgan 
wirelessed that the Lindberghs were leaving for the south, and a 
little later their plane passed us ; flying low just offshore. Finally it 
turned in towards the beach ahead of the "Northland" and circled 
over Wainwright. All hands crowded the rail to watch. We had a 
fine close view, but it wasn't until they squared away for Nome 
that I had sense enough to grab my camera. Then the plane was 
too far off. 

Their arrival at Barrow had stirred up plenty of excitement. 
Our boys did everything they could to make their stay enjoyable, so 
I think the Lindberghs must have had a pretty good time. 

I felt fresh and fit myself, and glad to be home again in spite of 
the responsibilities that went with it. 

One of my immediate problems was deciding what on earth to 
do with Tony's two orphan boys who had been at my house ever 
since their father's death. Why some childless family hadn't wanted 
to adopt the likely youngsters was beyond me. 

All at once such a simple solution flashed across me that I kicked 
myself for not thinking of it before. 

So I arranged to adopt them and raise them myself. 



CHAPTER LIV 

WHEN I say that the next three or four years passed without in- 
cident I mean only that they furnished none of those shattering 
events which stir the emotions and highlight the memory. 

It was a busy but "routine" period at Barrow. Our fur business 
ranged from good to bad and back again, according to the mysteri- 
ous dictates of ice and the animal kingdom. We had our human 
tragedies and comedies. As United States Commissioner, I recorded 
births and deaths, performed marriages in a pinch, and tried to 
play Solomon in settling. disputes. 

But on the whole it was one of those uneventful periods which I 
have often noticed about life in the Far North; an interlude so sus- 
piciously calm that after a while you find yourself bracing for the 
crash to come. 

I hadn't quite reached that point on August thirteenth, 1935, 
when Morgan hurried over to the Station and handed me a mes- 
sage from Fairbanks. 

"Here you are, Charlie," he beamed. "Looks like we're due for 
visitors." 

I read the message and grinned back. Nothing could have pleased 
me better. Will Rogers and Wiley Post were planning to drop in on 
me, and how was the weather up here? 

We flashed word back and began discussing their probable ar- 
rival. 

No plane appeared that day nor the next. When a spell of par- 
ticularly bad weather followed, with snow and sleet and no visibility 
whatever, ^e resigned ourselves to an indefinite postponement. 

On the morning of the fifteenth Morgan got another message. 
The men, still at Fairbanks, asked again for weather at Barrow. 
There was nothing surprising about this. You never can tell what 
is happening in one place from conditions in the other. But it was 

295 



296 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

lucky, we told ourselves, that they checked up in case they'd had 
any idea of taking off today. We'd seldom experienced a meaner 
storm. At times you couldn't see fifty yards. 

So Morgan sent the information warning them of what was go- 
ing on in the Barrow district. After which all hands dropped back 
into the routine work of a nasty day. 

About nine that night, while I sat at home working on some 
specimens to be sent outside, there came a sharp knock followed 
immediately by the headlong entrance of a panting Eskimo named 
Claire Okpeha. I knew Claire well, but had thought him away on 
a hunting trip. Whatever had brought him in on the run, it was 
plain from his face that something pretty serious had happened. 
There was nothing to do, however, but wait until he'd caught his 
breath. Then it came out that a plane had crashed in the lagoon. 

"You mean in our lagoon here at Barrow?" 

No, no, the lagoon twelve miles south. At Walakpa. He'd run 
all the way and had told Frank Dougherty, the schoolteacher, and 
Frank had sent him to me. 

Recovering his wind, Claire explained that he and some others 
were camping on a small stream at Walakpa when this plane, carry- 
ing two men and flying low in the storm, came overhead and passed 
back and forth several times. Then noticing the stream, they fol- 
lowed it to where it emptied into the lagoon only a short distance 
away. This apparently was when they first spotted Claire standing 
on the bank because a moment later they brought the plane down 
on the water, waded ashore and asked him how far they were from 
Barrow. 

On learning that it was only twelve miles, the two immediately 
went back to their plane and took off. 

Claire told me that everything seemed to go all right until they 
were up four or five hundred feet. Then suddenly their engine 
sputtered and died completely. As Claire watched, the plane went 
into a nose dive, hitting the shallow lagoon with the speed of a 
rocket, and turning completely over, so that engine and fuselage 
were buried under three feet of water. 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 297 

Claire said the whole thing happened so quickly that he just stood 
there a minute hardly able to believe his eyes. Coming to, he began 
yelling to the men to see if they were alive. There was no answer. 
Convinced now that he had just witnessed a terrible tragedy, Claire 
started for Barrow on the run to get help, and so far as I could 
make out, he never stopped until he reached the settlement and 
met Frank Dougherty. 

"Tell Charlie, quick!" Frank directed. "Tell him a plane's 
crashed. Tell him I'm getting a launch in the water. Ill notify 
Morgan." 

That was how the first news of the tragedy reached Barrow. 

Strange, it seems to me now, that nobody thought of Will Rogers 
and Wiley Post in connection with the crash. Increasing use of 
planes was bringing strangers up to the north coast more frequently 
than before and few came this way without making Barrow a sort 
of headquarters. My immediate thought, therefore, was that it was 
probably a couple of hunters who had neglected to get weather 
reports from our side of the mountains. 

At any rate Claire's story called for quick action. 

Morgan and the schoolteacher had left for the wreck already. 
But since my motor launch was faster than theirs, I loaded it with 
blankets, sleeping bags, tackle and whatever else I thought might 
be needed, and sent it after them, with Dave in charge. Dave's 
party was also towing a light oomiak so that they could get into 
the shoal water of the lagoon. 

Neither Dr. Griest nor I thought there was much chance of the 
men being found alive after what Claire Okpeha had said about 
the crash, but there was some satisfaction in knowing that we had 
a hospital ready for anything even preparing the dead. 

Around three in the morning both launches returned with the 
oomiak in tow. The fact that their motors were throttled down to 
normal speed seemed ominous. A glance at two heavily blanketed 
forms lying in the bottom of the oomiak offered mute proof that the 
worst had happened. And yet I was hardly prepared for the shock 
that Dave's first words brought. 



298 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

"Dad/ 5 he said, "it's Will Rogers and Wiley Post." 

It couldn't be! The weather report we'd sent 

"How do you know it's Rogers and Post?" I asked, forgetting 
that the two would be quite as familiar to Dave as to thousands 
of other countrymen all over the world. 

"We found out on the way down/' Morgan explained, stepping 
heavily ashore. "We knew it soon as Claire said something about 
one of the men wearing a patch over his eye. ... I better notify 
Fairbanks. My Seattle office, too." 

Since my job as United States Commissioner put the bodies 
officially in my care, I had them carried at once to the hospital. 
There Frank Dougherty, Dr. Griest and I prepared them for re- 
moval to Fairbanks as soon as a plane, already summoned, could 
get here. 

Both men had been killed instantly. There was no doubt of that. 
We found Will Rogers' legs completely crushed, the bones pro- 
truding everywhere. These had to be placed back inside and the 
flesh sewn up. He had a deep gash across one hip, with a lot of 
smaller cuts on the arms. Apparently, his back had received none 
of the impact. The top of his head, though, was crushed. 

Post's body, though terribly bruised, with several bad cuts on 
the arms and a deep gash across the throat, was in somewhat better 
shape in that no bones protruded. 

A terrific strain, those three hours it took us to get the bodies in 
shape ! 

Poor Dr. Griest was all in, and for once so nervous that he could 
hardly work. This left most of the sewing to me. I worked until 
six o'clock, with Mrs. Griest threading the needles and warning 
me not to stick the needle into myself. 

Before we had finished, messages were pouring in from all the 
news agencies in the United States demanding details. I answered 
one briefly and let it go at that. I had no wish to commercialize on 
the tragedy of two such nationally famous men so soon to have been 
my guests. 

The famous pilot, Joe Crosson, and his assistant mechanic must 





o 

k l "" 1 

o 1-3 

I * 

H 

H H 
en 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 299 

have left Fairbanks not long after we finished our work early in 
the morning for they were at Barrow by eleven o'clock. 

About five that afternoon we lifted both bodies into Crosson's 
plane, along with all the personal effects belonging to the men. Joe 
took off at midnight, flying directly to Fairbanks. Eventually he 
flew the bodies all the way outside. 

A few days after the accident I sent twenty-five men with a 
couple of lighters and a launch to try and save what was left of the 
wrecked plane. It was a two-day job, but in the end they came back 
with the plane, engine and propeller. At the request of Pratt & 
Whitney, who claimed that the engine was their property, I cleaned 
it up and shipped it to them later in the summer. The Standard 
Propeller Company notified me that the propeller belonged to 
them. That, too, was duly crated and sent out. 

The body of the plane, however, belonged to Mrs. Post, and at 
her request we destroyed it completely as she didn't want any part 
of it sent outside as a souvenir. But she was anxious to have all the 
instruments. These were the same that Post had used in the famous 
"Winnie Mae/' and their possession would enable her to complete 
the sale of the "Winnie Mae" to the National Museum. So I col- 
lected every part of these instruments that it was possible to find 
and packed them in a case, and shipped them to Mrs. Post in 
April, 1936. 

The tragedy threw a pall over all of us. It seemed so needless. 
Whether our weather warning ever reached the men is something 
I have never been able to discover. One finds it hard to believe that 
so experienced a pilot as Wiley Post would have started out in the 
face of it. And yet, who can guess what personal reasons may have 
prompted them to take the risk? 

Once over the mountains, and into the storm, the latter part of 
their flight through snow and sleet was clearly indicated by a later 
checkup. We had only to piece together several reports that filtered 
through. For example, some natives tending a deer herd, three 
times detected the sound of a plane flying about as though lost over 
the tundra. Once they even caught a glimpse of it, but not long 



300 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

enough to wave any signals. Since their camp was some ninety miles 
from Barrow it is certain that Rogers and Post had been groping 
their way long before they got anywhere near Barrow. 

Some of the territory they covered was indicated by the report of 
a trader, Gus Masik, who was crossing Smith's Bay that same 
afternoon and heard them clearly but was unable to catch sight of 
the plane. A similar report reached us from a native who had heard 
the plane above Point Tangent. So evidently the lost fliers had 
skirted the north coast for a while, working northwest in the 
general direction of Barrow, had they only known. But from 
Tangent they must have veered off west across country since noth- 
ing more was heard of them until they got close to Okpeha's camp 
near the small lagoon at Walakpa. 

When our two parties, which included Claire Okpeha, arrived 
at the scene of the accident, Morgan took charge. They found that 
some of Okpeha's friends had reached the upside-down, partly 
submerged wreck and already removed Rogers' body through an 
opening in the side, but hadn't been able to get the other one out. 

Taking a flashlight, Dave then went into the plane himself, but 
with no better luck. Post's body was jammed fast between the 
engine and one of the pontoons. Finding all ordinary methods use- 
less, they finally rigged a tackle and, with all hands helping, suc- 
ceeded in tearing the pontoon and one wind entirely off the plane. 
Even then it was only with great difficulty that they extracted the 
body. 

Before leaving, Dave examined the plane carefully to try and 
discover why it had crashed. That was easy. Not only did none of 
the tanks contain so much as a drop of gas but there was no sign of 
any on the surface of the landlocked lagoon. Add to this evidence 
the sudden sputtering and dying of the motor which Okpeha had 
mentioned, and it seems certain that the men were entirely out of 
gas when they landed on the lagoon the first time. Perhaps they 
thought they had enough for a bare twelve miles more. Perhaps 
they didn't even check their gauge. We shall never know. 

Not that this detail is important now, any more than knowing the 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 301 
exact time at which the crash occurred. Post's valuable gold watch 
had stopped just a few minutes before eight o'clock. 

Rogers 7 timepiece, still running when the bodies were brought 
to Barrow, seemed somehow to symbolize all that made Will the 
simple, beloved man-of-the-people that he was. 

It couldn't have cost over a dollar and a half. He wore it tied to 
the end of an old string. 



CHAPTER LV 

I FEEL like knocking on driftwood when I say that in all these years 
Barrow has had only three really bad fires. 

The first, when the ill-starred "Navarch" burned on the beach 
in '98, cost us eighty tons of coal when needed most. Later, educa- 
tion at Barrow temporarily went up in the smoke of the school- 
house. Early in 1937, at six in the evening while the personnel ate 
dinner, our hospital took fire from defective wiring. 

Luckily, only three patients were in it at the time and the nurses 
and hospital force got them out unharmed. Had the beds been 
filled, as was often the case, we should have had a holocaust on our 
hands. Dry and weathered, the structure burned so fast that by 
the time outside help arrived any mass rescue would have been 
impossible. 

The Arctic usually does things in a big way. Once the elements 
get out of hand, Nature goes the limit. The hospital embers were 
hardly cool when Nature showed what could be done with frozen 
water. As if jealous of all that its fiery rival had accomplished on 
the hospital, suddenly ten million tons of sea ice, driven by a south- 
west gale, came surging in to finish the rest of Barrow. They thun- 
dered against the anchored ice along the shore. They shoved it 
across the sandspits and up the slopes beyond. They squeezed and 
pressured it into fantastic masses which towered seventy-five feet 
high. 

All in twenty minutes! Then, when there seemed no hope left 
for any wooden structure, the pressure ceased as abruptly as it 
had started and the fleeing populace, not yet adjusted to loss by 
fire, came back to survey its loss by ice. 

We were lucky. Except for native boats crushed and buried, 
Barrow escaped the Station itself by a matter of yards. But it re- 
mained for m'ere man to keep us stirred up and anxious the rest of 
the year. 

302 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 303 

Due to Barrow's location at the jumping-off place, we had long 
been used to keeping a sort of international open house for travel- 
ers, explorers, naturalists and what have you. As yet, however, 
nothing Russian had come our way. So, on receiving a hot tip from 
the press in June, 1937, that a Russian expedition proposed to fly 
over the Pole oix a non-stop trip to San Francisco, I gladly agreed 
to relay any newsworthy angle that we might pick up. 

But I didn't know my Russians. After waiting for days to flash 
the first word to a breathless world, we learned that the Russians 
had landed at Vancouver long before. 

In July came rumors of a second group about to attempt the 
same flight. Again we watched and waited only to discover, when 
all was over, that this crew not only had completed their flight but 
had come down at San Jacinto, California, thereby establishing a 
new world record for distance. 

Apparently, we were destined to be dismal failures as reporters 
at least when things went well. 

But a few weeks after that record-breaking flight another Rus- 
sian, Commander Levanevsky took off on one, and suddenly Bar- 
row became the center of rescue attempts which for persistence 
beat anything I had ever seen. 

Levanevsky left Moscow on August thirteenth with five com- 
panions in a four-motored plane, planning to hit Barrow and go on 
to Fairbanks to refuel. Reports showed that they passed over the 
Pole at one-fifty A. M. next day. An hour later they were heard 
from again with one motor missing and ice forming on wings. That 
was the last message ever received from the men. 

On the nineteenth Barrow began to hum. First Bob Randall 
arrived, having skirted the coast from the mouth of the Mackenzie. 
Next came a plane from Fairbanks with Harold Gillam as pilot. 
Presently, a big Russian Fokker swooped down out of nowhere 
and landed on the lagoon. As if that wasn't enough for one day, 
the same evening we sighted the Russian icebreaker "Krassin" 
stuck fast in the heavy ice offshore. She, too, had come to help. 

After drifting around in the pack a few days, she smashed her 



304 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

way through and one evening anchored directly off the Station. 
Anxious to be of any possible service curious too, I admit, to see 
what life on a Russian icebreaker was like I tactfully waited 
until their dinner was over, then went aboard. 

Captain Michael Belousov proved to be the only one of the whole 
lot who spoke English. The main thing he wanted was to turn over 
to me a number of drums of fuel for future use of the rescue fliers. 
So I sent ashore for our lighters, and while his crew was loading 
them with the drums, all my men were treated to a picture show. 

Life on the "Krassin" was simple and wholesome. I don't know 
how many women were aboard besides the three who waited on the 
captain's table, but what impressed me as much as anything was 
the school they ran on the ship, with daily classes. 

"Most of the crew attend," explained Captain Belousov, with a 
touch of pride. "On that we insist. It is good for what you call 
it? morale." 

But if the evening I spent on the "Krassin" opened my eyes to 
Russian morale and organization, it also introduced me to Russian 
reticence. Apparently, Captain Belousov possessed no charts of 
the Alaskan coast. So we gave him all the definite information we 
had. But if we asked the simplest questions about his own move- 
ments, he'd manage to tell us exactly nothing. Belousov certainly 
was an artist in polite evasion. 

For that matter, so were most of the Russians, who seldom let 
slip the slightest bit of information unless specifically authorized 
by Moscow. Perhaps they were justified, so far as releasing official 
statements to the world. But to us at Barrow, too close to the center 
of things to be fooled, it seemed rather silly particularly when 
they got their wires crossed. 

For example, when the pilot and navigator of the Fokker 
wrecked their plane on a jagged ice floe far from land, the story 
given out was that they had come down right alongside the "Kras- 
sin/' had been taken aboard and the plane easily saved. 

"Those Russians sure have luck/' we thought. 

The true story came out later. After crashing on the ice a good 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 305 

ten miles from help and nearly drowning trying to save their radio, 
the aviators barely got their rubber boat inflated before the plane 
sank under them. Their luck consisted in ever managing to reach 
the "Krassin's" side at all. 

Again the Russians got their wires crossed when a crew of six, 
headed by Gracianski, flew a big Sikorski from Siberia to Barrow. 
On a subsequent flight out over the ice they reached latitude 
seventy-seven degrees and fifteen minutes the farthest north any- 
one had ever flown from Barrow. Returning safely, Gracianski 
excitedly let slip that they had discovered new land seventy-six 
north and one hundred fifty west. He described it minutely; a 
sandy island about a mile and a half long. 

Here at last was news! And out it went to the Associated Press. 
Next day the Russians made a blanket denial of the whole thing 
which certainly put us in the doghouse so far as the press was 
concerned. It took several embarrassing days before the discovery 
of new land, solemnly confirmed by Gracianski, was permitted by 
the Russian Government to be officially announced. 

All this time the search for luckless Commander Levanevsky 
and his five companions was being carried on by various planes as 
well as by the "Krassin." A lively spot, Barrow, while the search 
was on! 

About the only familiar face I missed among those persistent 
airmen was that of my old friend Wilkins who, no doubt, would 
have relished a job like this. But Wilkins was a long way from 
Barrow, and with winter just around the corner, the hopeless search 
must soon end without him. 

At last the "Krassin" left for good, one by one the planes quit 
and Barrow gradually settled down for a normal winter. The last 
time Gillam took off for Fairbanks I suddenly decided to go that 
far with him, just for the change, but I ended by flying all the way 

outside. 

It was during a layover in Juneau that a wire reached me from 
Stef ansson. Captain Wilkins, it said, was coming to Barrow to keep 
up the search all winter. He would bring some Canadian fliers with 



306 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

him, and could I take care of a party of twelve? 

I wired back that I was on my way outside but that my son Dave 
would do everything possible for the party. 

Wilkins' belated entrance into the picture gave me peculiar satis- 
faction. Not that I thought he'd accomplish anything. During the 
winter we have only five full-moon days in which you can do effec- 
tive flying even if the sky happens to be clear. And besides, I was 
convinced like everyone else except Wilkins, apparently that 
the lost men had long since died. But such persistence seemed, 
somehow, to set things right. It was characteristic of the man. 

While I spent the next few months in the States, Wilkins and 
his Canadian fliers wintered at bleak Barrow, poised and eager to 
take up the search again at the first chance. Only twice did he have 
the right kind of weather. On one of these occasions he made a 
wonderful flight out over the ice by moonlight from Barrow to 
Aklavik, reaching eighty-two degrees of latitude. 

His last flight zigzagged back and forth across the mountains 
and to the coast between Barrow and Aklavik for a distance of 
three thousand miles. But he never found a trace of the lost men. 
After that Wilkins returned to New York with his plane just about 
the time I was beginning to get homesick again for the North. 

It had been fine to motor around the country with my son Bill, 
visiting old friends, talking shop with naturalists to whom I had 
been sending specimens these many years, rubbing elbows with 
the crowds in San Francisco, Washington, New York. I don't deny 
liking a go at such things now and then. I always have. Luxuries, 
soft living, so-called civilization there's nothing better to make 
me appreciate Barrow. 

And so, as usual, spring brought back the old lure of the Arctic 
with its wideopen spaces, its plain living, its deep but exciting peace 
in which man can think things out while he works. 

By March twenty-sixth I was sailing from Seattle bound for 
Anchorage a week away. There followed a quick trip to Fairbanks 
by plane; then, on Saturday a flight over the mountains with my 
pilot friend, Harold Gillam, who had worn this air route smooth 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 307 

while flying for the Russians the year before. Dusk was falling 
when Alatna hove in sight ahead of us and far below. 

"We can spend the night here or go on/' said Harold. "How 
about it, Charlie?" 

Up to that moment you couldn't have got me to Barrow too soon. 
Suddenly a queer notion struck me. 

"Let's stay over/ 3 1 said. 

"Plenty of gas," he reminded me. 

"I know, but" 

Why try to explain that a sentimental old idiot, homeward bound, 
wanted to prolong the thrill by making an extra night of it? 

Next morning we landed on the small lagoon near the Station 
just as Sunday services were getting under way. 

Now, I had no intention of breaking up that meeting. I swear it. 
But what could I do when the Mission door banged open and the 
native congregation, having heard our plane, swarmed out men, 
women, kids shouting and waving as they came on the run to 
welcome Charlie home? 



EPILOG? 

AND so comes an intermission in this colorful drama which the 
Arctic has been unfolding for me these many years. It began at 
the end of that brief, hazy prolog when I went to sea. The main 
performance is still going strong. There can be no real epilog. Noth- 
ing is ever finished along these bleak, exciting coasts where Stone- 
Age oomiaks meet the four-motored planes of a Flying-Age. 

I inch forward on my chair, so to speak, watching breathlessly to 
discover what the next scene will reveaL Something new in natural 
history, perhaps. A snowbird driving a full-grown lemming, squeal- 
ing, beneath the porch of one of my warehouses. 

I've never seen that happen before. 

Or the mystery of myriads of Ross gulls drawn inshore by the 
"crack" of my gun. Habitually, these birds feed far out on the 
floe, listening for the noise of leads opening up in the ice where 
their food lies. Then why did they come inshore? A strange phe- 
nomenon! I puzzle over the thing all day, unmindful of native 
sleds arriving with excellent new furs. Suddenly the answer comes 
and I score one more victory over the Arctic. Those fool birds mis- 
took the "crack" of my rifle for a lead opening up and merely fol- 
lowed the sound, anticipating food. 

Well, I've never seen that happen before. 

Or it may be some long- forgotten tragedy suddenly recalled by a 
tin canister cast up on the beach, such as happened in the spring 
of 1937. 

An Eskimo boy found it near Beechey Point and cut it open in 
search of food. Instead, the can contained a number of documents, 
all so carefully sealed that the youngster, impressed, sent them on 
to me intact. 

When I started to open them up, I got as far as reading the name 
of the British man-of-war "Enterprise/ 5 then quit. The papers 

308 



FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 309 

were too old to stand amateur handling. The slightest careless 
movement, and they would have fallen to pieces. I ended by mail- 
ing them sealed as they were, to the British Admiralty Office in 
London, together with a letter telling how and where they had been 
found. 

Several months later back came photostatic copies of the re- 
stored documents; also letters of appreciation from both the Ad- 
miralty and the National Maritime Museum. It seemed that eighty- 
two years before, the British Government had sent out two ships, 
the "Enterprise" and "Endeavor," to try and find some trace of 
Sir John Franklin's lost expedition in search of the North Pole. 

After depositing food and clothing at definite points, the captain 
of the "Enterprise" recorded the locations of these caches on sixty 
identical documents, sealed them in tin canisters and scattered 
them to the four winds, each attached to a small balloon. In this 
way he hoped that eventually some might be picked up by members 
of Sir John Franklin's luckless crew. 

Since ours was the only one ever recovered, those papers have 
great historical value. The photostats and original letters of ap- 
preciation from London now rest in the archives of the University 
of Alaska at Fairbanks, with copies deposited in the American 
Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institute and in the 
Valuable Documents Department of the Library of Congress. 

Well, let them stay there to catch the tourist's hasty glance and 
make him speculate, if only for a moment, on just where those 
papers may have drifted during eighty-two years. 

But what, after all, are eighty-two years in the Arctic compared 
with all the centuries of sameness that rolled by before the white 
man came with his guns and ships? 

True, much has happened at Barrow since, particularly in these 
last few years. Electric lights! Radios! Short-wave sending station! 
"Daily" papers six times a year! First-class air mail oftener! No 
wonder our white population has grown until at the end of 1940 
Barrow boasted ten women, nine men and six children. Sometimes 
I think we're getting a bit too crowded for comfort. 



310 FIFTY YEARS BELOW ZERO 

And yet I wouldn't have missed these last few years, nor the 
chance they've given me to keep open house for great names like 
Stefansson, Wilkins, Rasmussen, Amundsen. The little "Gjoa" 
creeping out of the east and anchoring at the Point after Amundsen 
had completed his Northwest Passage this alone was the sight 
of a lifetime. 

When I look farther back through long years of tragedy and 
comedy, other sights and people come to mind as clear-cut as though 
it were yesterday. Shall I ever forget my last view of terrible At- 
tungowrah as he stood, apelike and silent, among the rotting corpses 
of his murdered victims to wave me an affectionate goodbye? 

Not that I have too much time for retrospection these days, with 
a good-sized business to look after, and the functions of United 
States Commissioner to perform, as well as Postmaster not to 
mention being on our Selective Draft Board which covers a district 
of sixty thousand square miles. 

It's the long winter nights that bring the past to life. Nights when 
the North Pole sends a gale howling around Barrow and I sit 
snugly working on my specimens, or writing, or carving a bit of 
ivory. Or perhaps saying to myself, as we used to in the old days, 
"But just wait till next spring! " 

For on such a night familiar echoes come easily to the ear of 
memory; ghostly sounds which, nevertheless, will always typify 
the Arctic to me. I hear them plainly as I work the rhythmic beat 
of the devil-driver's drum, wind-swept shouts of a triumphant 
crew, or, mingling with the boom of ice, the dying swis-s-sh of a 
bowhead whale. 



THE END